How to catch flathead. Locally flathead is an iconic bread and butter fish species found in many of our bays, rivers, and estuaries. Flathead will eagerly take a whole range of baits, lures, and soft plastics and that’s what makes them such a fun species to target. There are also top-table fish and one of the easiest fish species to catch and clean. Put all that together there accessible, good to eat, and fun to target what could be better. However, when targeting a fish species, you need to think about what characteristics they have. For the most part, the flathead is an ambush predator with eyes on the top of their heads. They are camouflaged and will often sit on the bottom waiting for a baitfish or a mullet to swim by for an easy feed.
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Flathead Facts & Catch Limits
- Flathead has the scientific name of Platycephalidae.
- The legal-size limit of flathead locally is 27 cm
- The daily bag limit for flathead is 20 per person over 27cm.
- Different sizes and limits apply to dusky flathead so please take some time to recognise the differences with a dusky.
- Most flathead caught around Port Phillip Bay and Western Port will generally be between 25 and 40 cm. However, flathead can grow much bigger, especially in estuaries such as Lake Tyers.
Best time to catch Flathead ( Seasons )
In Victoria, Flathead can be caught most of the year. However, they are more active in warmer months ideally between Summer and Autumn. They are often best targeted at Dawn/Dusk and on tide changes.
How to catch Flathead
Watch our detailed video tutorial on how to catch flathead with bait, soft plastics and lures.
Thinking of those characteristics a few things come to mind, firstly keep your lures and baits close to the bottom, and secondly stay active if you’re on a boat and kayak then its best to not anchor up but instead drift around and for land-base anglers its best to walk around and cover as much distance as you can. Both those points will greatly improve your catch rate.
Best Soft Plastics and lures to Catch Flathead
Flathead love soft plastics and lures, they will go at just about any style or color as they are not fussy. Our favorites include grubs, worm imitations, curly tails, paddle tails, and minnow imitations. Just ensure you cover ground this is best done by drifting when flicking lures and soft plastics. Other good options include deep diving hard body lures, Vibes, and Blades. For jig head selection it’s a good idea to have multiple weights and sizes with you. This way you can adjust based on the current strength and weather conditions. We generally would have a 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, and & 1/12 jig head in a 2/0 and 3/0 size. Take your time when rigging and make sure the plastic is on straight, this improves the plastic action.
- Berkley 4-inch turtleback worm ( camo )
- Munroes 3.75-inch paddle tail ( UV Filthy Pilchard )
- Zman 3-inch slim Swimz
- Keithtech Easy Shiner 4-inch ( Silver Flash minnow )
- Zman 3-inch grub ( watermelon )
- Squidgee Wrigglers 120mm ( Silver Fox )
- Holt Swimprawn
- Zman 3-inch MinnowZ ( Purple Death, UV Pink )
- Savage Gear TPE Shrimp
- Berkley Crabby
- Daiwa Bait junkie 3.2-inch paddle tail ( Black Gold )
- Munroes curltail worm ( Caramel éclair )
- Savage Gear Jerk shads
- Berkley Shimma Shrimp
Flathead fishing with soft plastics for beginners
The video below is a step-by-step tutorial on soft plastics fishing for flathead. Walking you through rod and reel setup, soft plastic selections, rigging, jig heads, casting, and retrieving techniques.
The best lures to catch flathead
There is a large range of lures for targeting flathead. You will want to take note of the lures intended diving depth. Lures such as the Daiwa double clutch are fished best when fishing in shallow areas under 3 meters deep. Where you can get the lure low and brush up against the sand. Some of my favourite lures include the
- Daiwa double clutch
- Squid imitations such as the Savage Gear 3D squid in smaller sizes
- Savage Gear hard body shrimp XD
- Samaki vibelicious
- Zerek Tango shad
- TT vibes in bright colors such as pink
Flathead will also happily take a vibe, blade, and hard body lure, again the options here are endless so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Techniques with lures and soft plastics
When soft plastics fishing for flatties we use 2 simple techniques. The good thing about both these techniques is that there easy to learn and master. You will see after some practice that they are simple yet very effective.
The Hopping technique – Simply cast your plastic or lure and wait a few seconds for it to hit the bottom, then do several quick erratic lifts wind in the slack and let the plastic sink back down to the bottom. wait 5-10 seconds then repeat this process until your plastic or lure is back where you are fishing. The idea behind this technique is that your imitating a wounded baitfish, and when it sinks back to the bottom is when you get most of your catches.
The slow roll – Simply cast your plastic or lure and wait a few seconds for it to hit the bottom, then simply do a slow continuous retrieve of your fishing reel. This basic technique is known as the slow roll. This works great with curl tails, and paddle tail plastics as the natural action of the soft plastics do all the work. Keep the plastic or lure a foot or two above the bottom is a dynamite way to catch flathead.
Best Baits to Catch Flathead
Our best bait recommendations include pilchards, small strips of squid, and other small pieces of flesh bait. The are several ways to present baits for flathead. Either a running sinker rig, dropper rig, and paternoster rigs are also popular choices. The rig choice will be dependent on where you are fishing and the conditions such as tidal strength. Where possible fish with as little weight. When land-based you may need a heavy sinker to cast out as far as you can.
Flathead respond well to berley and it’s a great idea to stay active and drift around for them and mark waypoints on your sounder when you catch them so you can redrift over productive grounds. These will generally be sandy flats in a whole range of different water depths.
- Squid Strips or Squid Candles ( tentacles )
- Blue Bait
- Raw chicken
I like to use squid for a couple of good reasons. It doesn’t fall off the hook and you get fewer bites from pest species such as banjos and toadfish. The other benefit is when I go squid fishing I cook the hoods into calamari rings, but I keep the tentacles for bait.
Rod and rig setup to catch flathead
Let’s focus on the soft plastic set up first a 2-4 kilo rod, a 2500 series reel and line strength between 6 to 12-pound are ideal for targeting flatties. When fishing with soft plastics it’s important to use braid because it doesn’t stretch therefore you are always in contact with the lure and you’ll feel the bumps and bites. To improve your catch rate it’s recommended to use a leader. Fluorocarbon is a fused fishing line which means it’s thinner in diameter and harder to see in the water. I use 1-rod length of Fluorocarbon leader. When bream fishing I go very light 2-4 pounds but when fishing for flathead ill jump up to 8-12pound. Flathead has sharp bristle-like teeth and will often chew up your leader so it’s a good idea to go a little bit heavier.
For bait fishing, a 2-4 or 3-5 kilo rod is perfect for this style of fishing. I generally use a 3-5 kilo 7 feet in length coupled with a 2500-3000-size reel with a 6-12-pound braid or mono. You can make your own flathead rigs. The most common rigs are running sinker rigs or paternoster rigs. You can buy premade fishing rigs which are an easy way to get started. Simply tie it to your main line and attach a sinker and you’re ready to go. Some good premade flathead rigs include these Premade Hairyback Flathead rigs.
Flathead HOTSPOTS around Melbourne and Victoria
- Port Phillip Bay
- Western Port
- Lake Tyers
- Lakes around the Gippsland area
- Lake Tyres
- Port Phillip Bay
- Western Port
- Gippsland Lakes
- Altona Pier
- Portsea Pier
- Rosebud pier
- Mount Martha rocks
- Mornington Pier
- Frankston Pier
- Seaford Pier
- St Kilda Pier
- Kerferd road pier
- Lagoon Pier
- The Warmies
- Lagoon Grammar
- Cunningham Pier
- St Leonards
Flathead can be targeted during most parts of the day, however, they are generally most active at the peak of each tide, especially low tide. All fish species are generally always active at sunrise and sundown. I love fishing and I’m happy catching any type of fish regardless of the size or species. I love targeting flathead, there are easily accessible, there great to catch on soft plastics using light spinning gear and there still one of the best-eating fish. Remember to always check fishing regulations and catch limits in your area. Where possible practice catch and release you don’t need to hit your bag limits just keep a couple for a feed.
You can obtain a copy of the latest Vic fishing guide here to help you get familiar with fishing rules https://vfa.vic.gov.au/recreational-fishing/recreational-fishing-guide
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