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Lots of little and a few big flatties plus bycatch


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Went out early today with @antonywardle in his boat.  We launched at 6am to beat the holiday crowds with a plan to head outside to the flathead grounds and drift for bluespotted flatties.  

On the way out as we passed Box Head we saw a few fish boiling up the water so we decided to troll a couple of lures until we were past the head.  We didn't get so much as a nudge and to be honest neither of us have a clue what we are doing when it comes to trolled lures so after a short pass of the heads we wound in and headed on the way.  

Next stop was a small reef called The Bottles that I had marked on a previous trip that is more or less on the way to the flathead grounds.  We did a couple of drifts over that and picked up some yakkas, a slimey mackrel and a couple of small flatties once we crossed the reef.  We kept the yakkas and slimey for some fresh cut baits and headed on to the flathead grounds.  

We started drifting in about 45-46m of water and were quickly rewarded with bites.  We caught a heap of flatties pretty much one after the other - but unfortunately all well short of legal.  They ranged in size from large mud skipper to about 30cm. Honestly we stopped counting the fish.  We pulled one up on almost every drop and once I came up with a double, but all small.  We made the call to move out a bit deeper.  Just as I reached for my second rod to wind it in it was hit by what felt like a much better fish.  Unfortunately about half way up it busted off the hook from the bottom dropper on my paternoster rig.

We motored out a bit deeper - around the 52m mark.  We started a long drift and for a while there was nothing.  Then there were a few smaller flatties.  Then I brought up a legal fish - finally we were on the board.  Not long after @antonywardle went one better with a couple of really good flatties measuring about 45 and 50cm respectively.  

We motored up about halfway up our long drift because all the action was in the second half and tried again.  We picked up a couple more legal flatties and let one go that was legal, but only just and needed to fatten up a bit more in my opinion.  

Along the way we also pulled in a heap more small flatties including one that came up with one of the legal flatties and another double header as well.  I also pulled in what felt like a huge fish, but turned out to be a 27cm trev foul hooked and coming up sideways (went back).  I was fairly surprised as well when I pulled in a 25cm whiting from about 48m of water a couple of kms offshore.  Didn't think they would be that far outside and actively feeding.  I released that as well, but he did not look too healthy.  I suspect they don't handle barotrauma well.  I've got a release weight rigged on a handline in my boat, but we weren't in my boat.

I could of sworn I caught a tailor as well at about 31 cms which I kept to use as cut bait on a future trip, but no idea where that went as we could not find it when it came time to divide the catch.  There was a big yakka that neither of us remembered catching - but I distinctly remember a tailor with its rows of sharp teeth... (did you find that later ant?)

At the top of the tide the bite dropped off and we were getting pretty hot and had a very good haul so decided to head back in.  All up we had 7 legal flathead and some leftover yakkas for future bait.  Because we both stopped counting the small fish we were throwing back I can't be sure, but I reckon we must have landed and released about 30 small fish between us.  We also had another 3 or 4 where it felt like a better fish but it got off half way up, plus one around 40cms fish that I lost at the boat when I snagged the end of my rod on my lifejacket as I turned to grab the net off Antony.  Still - we had a ball and I took home the 4 smaller fish (one of which Antony caught and kindly gave me) and Anthony took home 3 really nice flatties.  All up a great morning out on the water with a fellow raider.  Fish tacos were had tonight so my ever patient wife and kids were happy too.

Thanks for the company Antony - till next time!

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Great report, as always,  @kiwicraig and a great way to finish the year. I ended having freshly fried Flathead fillets and salad, so i good dinner for me.I remember that there was one fish you tried as a live bait that got swapped for a Flathead, maybe that was the tailor? I found one small yacka in the esky when I got home, but no other fish. To be honest, I thought you pulling the same fish out of your pocket every time you wound up ;-)


@raging sinkers need to be big enough to get you too the bottom and this is dependent on how fast you are drifting. I started off with some marked size 8 snapper, and then replaced one that had 170 stamped on it and one that was a bit bigger. The line should point nearly straight down. If you are drifting too fast, then the sinker will tend to "fly" a bit and won't drag along the bottom. So we tried slowing down with a drogue, which is when we started catching the bigger ones. Well we moved out further too, but slowing down helped too, and Craig up sized his sinker too and he started catching some larger ones too. It can get a bit tiring winding up with weight and it is also gets hard to tell if you've got something when it is small. 

For those of you with an interest in the technical parts of the trip, this was the first time that I'd been out with Craig in my boat, as all previous trips where in his. Santa got me a new tablet to replace the one that I had lost, and Navionics tells me that we traveled 40.6 km over 6 hours and 50 minutes with an average speed of 6km/h and a top speed of 54km/h. We couldn't go much faster, it got a bit bumpy and my radio installation box fell off. The Servo tells me that my ETEC 90 used 22 litres of fuel, and a lot of that was while running. It looks like we were drifting for about 10 km of that and when I figure out how to get the track off my tablet, then I post it somewhere. There were quite a few boats out there. The tablet is a 7 inch $99 Lenovo Tab 3Essential, is about one of the cheapest you can get with a GPS, and had 25% battery left when I checked it after I got home.



Here is out joint entry for CotM with some surprisingly good braid scissors that were pretty cheap. I alway thought that they were marketing hype, but they cut my braid very well, and for the price, its worth having a set in your tackle box. 







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9 hours ago, raging said:

Nice one. When drifting in 50m's what size sinker do you typically use ?

It depends on how fast you are drifting, size of baits and how thick the line is.  I started with a 3oz which was fine in the first location, but had to up it to a 4oz.  The drift in the second location was faster.  I was finding my sinkers were tending to fly a bit, so I compensated by periodically opening the bail arm to let a little more line out to let it sink to the bottom, and that is when I tended to hook up.  Antony was using slightly heavier sinkers and was having issues with flying bait.

Trial and error is the key, so tie a loop onto the bottom of your rig so you can easily swap sinkers and then use the lightest you can get away with.  I'm going to have to buy a few in the next sizes up as well.  I do most of my fishing inside, so the 3 & 4oz sinkers were already the biggest I had :)

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24 minutes ago, raging said:

Awesome - thanks. I'm going to need some bigger sinkers

The other thought I had is that fishing with a single bait on the rig rather than two will create less drag and therefore need less weight to keep it down.  I might try that next time as most of the time it was the bottom hook that was getting the fish anyway.

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Hi Kiwicraig,

The school at Box Head were probably tailor. I was trolling at that time around Lion Island and about 1km out and was getting tailor between 25-40cm. 

I was using a small metal lure about 5cm and a bibbed lure (white with red head) of about 10cm. They hit both. Try that next time. 

Great report btw.



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Great report writing makes for an excellent read. Well done! We use one pound sinkers all the time and rarely go lower. However, we usually fish in 60 - 70 metres off Sydney and our best catch is nearly always flathead. The days of catching 1.5 kilo (cleaned) flathead however seem to be in the past as anything over one kilo is likely these days to take the fish of the day prize unless a fat mowie comes on board. Keeper snapper on the drift are also few and far between.

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