Wednesday, August 25, 2010
2Dans Fishing – Radio Program 3 – Sunday 22nd August 2010
Fishy Fact File – Flathead – Platycephalus sp.
Flathead are indeed an interesting fish species, loved by Australian fishermen and seafood consumers alike there are a number of species that are regularly caught by line fishermen, and a whole bunch of other species which are less often encountered. Here’s a link to show you just how many species of flathead are finning Australia’s waterways http://www.fishnames.com.au/fishnames/fishnames.php?caab=37%20296002 – AMAZING! For the purposes of this Fishy Fact File let’s take a look at the ones regularly caught by anglers around Australia. These are; the Dusky Flathead of the East coast definitely the largest of the ‘lizard’ clan, the Southern Bluespotted flathead, the rock flathead, as well as the Deep- sea flathead not to be confused or Southern Sand Flathead or the Northern Sand Flathead. It is simply quiet amazing how many species of flathead there are, and what’s more amazing is that flathead are found in only a few other regions around the world. New Zealand has none, although South Africa has a few species, however through out South-East Asia there are a number of species caught and sold commercially. The great thing about these fish is that they are accessible to all anglers whether shore based or boat based and they can be caught in almost every saltwater environ across our great country, additionally no matter which ones you catch they all taste great. Just be sure that you know the correct size and bag limits for your local waterway and adhere to them.
Range and Habitat: A quick look at the range and habitat of the various species. The Dusky Flathead is encountered from about Hinchinbrook Channel down the eastern seaboard to the Gippsland Lakes of Victoria, they are mostly estuarine dwellers and can be caught in brackish waters at times. The Sand Flathead of which consist a number of species (which only Taxonomists can see the difference between) are encountered from about Coffs Harbour in mid-north NSW around the southern half of Australia to Lancelin (Just north of Perth) in WA, they are also encountered through Bass Straight and Tasmanian waters. The Sand flathead as there name suggests inhabit sand stretches of bottom from the estuaries out to 100-150metre in depth. The Bluespotted Flathead (of which there are also a number of species) Can be found from Moreton Bay (Brisbane) around to Kalbarri in WA, this species is predominantly encountered offshore.
Size: The ruler of the flathead clan is without doubt the Dusky Flathead, impressive at any size over 3kg, they are most commonly caught around the 1kg mark. Whilst the Australian record is 9.44kg, Dusky’s have reportedly been caught up to 14kg and over 1.1 metres in length – WOW. Most of the other species in the genus grow to a maximum size of 3kg, again most fish kept are between the legal size limit and 1kg.
Age: From the information available it seems that different species of flathead grow at different rates and become sexually mature at different ages – which is really not surprising.
Spawning and sexual maturity: Whilst studies have been done on many of the commercially important species of flathead, there isn’t time or space to represent all of these so lets take a look at the Dusky. Sexual maturity in Dusky Flathead occurs at different rates between the males and females, studies show that females reach sexual maturity at approx 56cm, whilst male Dusky flathead reach sexual maturity at approx 31cm. These lengths correlate to the ages with females being about 4.55 years old when reaching sexual maturity and males only 1.22 years old. The NSW size limits in place represent these findings with the minimum size being 36cm and only 1 fish over 70cm allowed to be kept. This is to protect the large breeding females which are super important to future fish stocks.
Tackle: The best tackle for fishing for flathead varies depending on where and how you intend to catch these beautiful fish. For estuary soft-plastic fishing the rods should 7-8ft in length and suited to fish 2-4kg line classes, which equates to 4 to 8lb braid depending on your preference. Basically a light estuary outfit with a size 2000-2500 spin reel is optimum. You can also fish baits with the same outfit, ensure to fish lightly weighted or unweighted baits. Fishing live baits for Dusky flathead is the way to target the big ones, either from a stationary location or anchored boat or drifting across sandy bottoms interspersed with rocks and weed-beds. If drifting in the harbours and bays, you can either fish a running sinker to a swivel with a 30-40cm trace or use paternoster style rigs. Offshore drifting for flathead is the domain of the paternoster rig, use enough weight to get to the bottom, two droppers and if your keen a lumo bead on the dropper can improve catches. Try drifting over sandy and broken reef terrain, this will work well both in estuaries and offshore. For the most part drifting flathead anglers use an overhead rod and reel set-up, although a 6-8kg threadline set-ups will also do the job. For bite sensitivity it’s best to use braid. Leaders should be between 6-20lbs depending on the size of fish you expect to encounter (and other possible by-catch) and how ‘bite-shy’ the fish are.
For more detailed info on the hooks, jig heads and soft plastics get in to your local tackle store. Or stay tuned for updates on our blog
Eating qualities: Flathead are amongst Australia’s most favourite fish to eat, they are popular in restaurants, fish and chip shops and homes nation wide. Studies indicate that recreational anglers catch more than the commercial sector, how truthful this research is (being based on assumptions and statistics) will never be known. Regardless like all fish stocks in the world, the pressure of fishing in the future is only going to get greater so consider this when catching a feed of flathead for your hungry family.
Future Fish – Fishers For Conservation
Concerned about the future of the fish in our oceans?? Want to get educated and educate your peers and friends?? Perhaps you may even want to get active, as you are hopefully aware there is plenty being done about marine conservation and sustainability, more importantly a lot more needs to be done. An organisation set-up in 2005 called Fishers For Conservation is doing something about these issues, the information provided and the education they are promoting is very important so click through this link, have a read get educated and become active. Whether you are pro Marine Parks or anti them if you want to have a point of view then you owe it to yourself to get educated.
Fishers For Conservation
On The Fishing Line – Mark from Lake Macquarie
Mark does a fair bit of fishing for Bream, but finds he’s only catching the small ones, he wants a few tips so he can catch the larger ones.
Fishing for bream is fun and can deliver a good feed, the great thing is they can be caught by both land-based and boat based anglers. Lake Macquarie is a shallow coastal lake on the Central Coast of NSW, since commercial fishing was banned in the lake the fish populations have grown in size and diversity and there are indeed great numbers of bream in the system.
The tips for catching bigger bream are as follows;
1) Use a fine misty berley to attract the fish in, most often you will notice that the small ones are first to arrive and hang in pretty close, try flicking out beyond these fish to find the warier large fish.
2) Whilst prawns and pilchards will definitely catch bream, often what is need is a tougher bait that will stay on the hook long enough and take enough battering from the small ‘pickers’ to be scoffed by the bigger bream lurking with a watchful eye. Try mullet, yellowtail or striped tuna strip baits, squid will also work well as will mullet, chicken gut and believe it or not steak.
3) Use larger hooks (Octopus or bait holder 1 and 1/0) to avoid catching so many small fish and potentially damaging them.
4) Fish the tides and the change of light (dusk or dawn) for best results.
Around the Grounds:
Around the Hinchinbrook area there have been some catches of Permit on fly for the wily anglers in the know. Also on the chew have been smaller specimens of Barramundi in the mangrove lined creeks. It’s also a good time of year to catch mud crabs, be sure to know the size limits and always release the females in Queensland – that’s the law.
South WA there are good numbers of Australian Salmon along the beaches
Further north from Perth to Shark Bay larger Tailor are feeding, try lures and ganged pilchards for best results.
In the highland lakes region it trout time, try fishing days when the weathers warmer and there’s less wind. Either walk the shoreline and Polaroid for trout, be ready to cast wet flies just in front of the trouts path and tweek them just as they go past.
Back on the coast of Victoria offshore from Warnambool to Portland the mighty Southern bluefin tuna have been around in decent numbers if you don’t have a boat there are plenty of charter operators that can get you amongst the action.
NEW SOUTH WALES
All throughout NSW waters on the wider grounds the Yellowtail Kingfish have been schooling up. Try jigging or fishing live baits on the 50-150 metre hard reefs. Up around the Coffs Coast region the snapper have been active. Further north there have been occasional catches of Cobia.
The King Gorge whiting are in decent numbers although the weather has made it hard to get amongst them. The snapper are also active again crappy weather has kept most boats inshore. Tasty tasty fish indeed.
If you have any reports of your own that’d you would like to share with nation email us; firstname.lastname@example.org