LET BREEDERS DO THEIR THING
There is no better feeling than watching a large breeding fish swim away, it’s one you’ll never forget
OVER the next few months a lot of large female flathead will move towards bar entrances, followed by an entourage of smaller males, to breed.
It is important, if caught, that they are handled correctly with minimal interruption to ensure future numbers of the species.
There are many tips you can use to ensure they swim away healthy and it starts before you get the fish to the boat.
The minute the flathead sees the boat they will take their strongest run, usually diving away and towards the bottom.
Trying to net them before that final dive can injure the fish. It also usually ends up with an empty net and swirl of water where the fish used to be.
If you predict that last dive and let it happen, don’t tighten your drag or thumb your reel and don’t swipe at it with the net. You will usually get the fish back to the boat for round two.
Bigger fish will often take a second or even a third dive but being prepared for it, you have a much better chance of landing the fish and releasing it healthy.
Once all the antics are over, put the net in the water and swim the flathead into it.
Don’t try and swipe it from behind because with any kick of the tail it will swim out of the net. If you swim the fish into the net head first, a kick of the tail puts the fish right where you want it, in the bottom of the net.
If possible, it’s best not to lift large female flathead out of the water but instead remove hooks while the water supports their body weight.
Often not an easy thing to do, however, containing them in the landing net while you remove the hook makes it a little easier.
If they have swallowed the bait, it is best not to try and remove it but instead cut the line close to the fish’s mouth.
One of the worst things you can do to a large flathead, in fact any large fish you’re going to release, is to hold them up by the jaw without support along their length.
If you do have to lift the fish into the boat, do it in the landing net.
When you bring it into the boat lay it on a wet surface, not a sun heated deck.
A few wet towels are a handy tool you can have ready in a boat. Lay one down to put the fish on, the other over its head to quieten it down so it’s not thrashing about.
Because it has spikes, and to prevent possible damage to the fish, it’s best to use wet gloves or a towel to put the fish back in the water.
Hold the fish just under the surface, when it’s ready it will swim away and that’s one very good feeling.