Trolling for flathead - a proven method
by Phillip Ellerton
Try something different: Flathead on the troll. Your average angler has caught a flathead on bait. We've all done it before, a relaxing afternoon catching enough flathead for friends and family.
Both sand and tiger flathead are a common and easily accessible species to catch in our more cooler Tasmanian waters. Every year during the cooler months our bays are scattered with small dingy's making the most of the sheltered and normally productive waters. A challenging alternative is to try something different - flathead on the troll.
Flathead are commonly known as a bottom dwelling species, predominately feeding directly of the bottom, or just above.
First things first. To catch them you must get your lure down in their strike zone and before you can catch the fish you have to find them. A sand bottom is preferred although flathead c an be found on a weedy, rocky bottom. The best spot to troll is on the edge of a drop-off, whether it be the edge of a sandbank or rocky reef.
To troll for flathead speed is not necessary, a small dingy is all that is needed, also canoe's are very suitable. A small ancillary outboard from three to nine horsepower would be quite adequate. Also the more modern electric out boards are ideal. Your trolling speed should be adjusted to make certain your lures are working effectively. To make sure that your chosen lure is working with the correct action simply place the lure over the side of the boat making sure the rod tip is pulsating. Another bonus that helps in your fishing is good rod holders, which are situated on the perfect angle to assist the lure in swimming more freely. Because they key to catching flathead on the troll is to experiment using different colours, brands and sizes of lures. Also a very slight change in speed will give the lure more or less action, sometimes enticing a fish into striking.
There is no specialised flathead trolling gear. All that is needed is normal spinning or light boat tackle. A suitable combination would be a 6ft spinning rod with a light to medium action. The choice of reel is simply up to the individual angler. I personally prefer a small overhead reel or even bait caster. A normal thread line reel works just as effective being a lot more simple to use.
Line classes again are up to the individual angler. Although I prefer to fish as light as possible using line from 2-4kg. It is a good idea to use different coloured lines. For example when trolling two lines troll one clear line and one fluoro yellow line. This helps in differentiating between two different rods being trolled - also helping in showing different lures being trolled on different lines.
When out of the boat using a net is essential especially when dealing with big lizards, which contain many spikes which can inflict many painful wounds. Because of this very reason a set of stainless steel pliers are a must - Silstar have a good set.
The whole point is to try something different so the range of lures that can be used is great, with many alternatives to choose from. There are although some lures that are more renown, proven flathead catchers such as: Mann's in both +5 and +10 stretch lures. The Halco Combat is one of my personal favourites especially in a fluorescent yellow colour with bright orange rib. The Rebel Crawdad in both the small and large sizes with the red/orange colour and the yellow and green. The McGrath ;ures in various colours will all catch fish. Both the Nilsmaster and Rapala lures, although not going to the greater depths are also very productive.
If the lure does not go to the required depth a running sinker is placed in front of the lure. Note that it is very important to get down to the correct depth to be in the flatheads striking zone. Although bibbed lures are the more preferred style to use, bibles lures like cobras, wonder wobblers, Toby's and even Halco slice lures sill all catch fish. Although not commonly practised the Tassie Devil or other cobra patterns are absolutely dynamic on lizards especially Tassie Devil No. 45 (pink and blue)
Flathead are the most common dominant species to catch when trolling deeper water. There are various other species which will readily accept a lure trolled at this depth. At the right time of year species such as Australian Salmon, Pike and Trevally can be caught providing some great sport on light spinning tackle spooled up with 2 kg line. If trolling an estuary environment there are various prize catches to be taken. On the mainland bream on lure is a common target, although not so aggressive our species of bream will accept a correctly trolled lure. In our Tasmanian waters there is a bonus chance of catching a sea-run trout when trolling estuaries - although remember the Inland fisheries requirements and season regulations.
More occasional species to turn up are Blue Trout Wrasse, Barracouta, Cod, Mullet, Mackerel and even squid. Any species of fish will take a lure providing the lure is adapted to the feeding pattern of the particular species.
When it comes to trying something different there are no limitations. So further your fishing vocabulary and target flathead on the troll. So remember, no limits and go and experiment.