More than 250 anglers enjoyed good conditions of a full moon and favourable tides for the fourth annual Tuross head flathead and bream tournament on the NSW south coast last weekend.
But whether it was the increased boat traffic or fish just playing hard to get, many anglers struggled to bring fish to the boat, even the normally reliable flathead.
The competition was strictly catch-and-release and fish could only be caught using lures or artificial flies. There were three categories; longest flathead, the longest bream and the longest bag comprising two of each species.
Just over half of the competitors recorded a flathead over the minimum size limit of 36 centimetres. Those lucky enough to locate the fish were rewarded with some fantastic flathead, including five over 80 centimetres.
These huge fish are often called crocodiles and with good reason. They are prehistoric looking fish with a vast, cavernous mouth. Without exception these "crocs" were fat and healthy and all safely released to provide a thrill for the next angler who can tempt one.
Craig Emslie won the prize for largest flathead with a whopping 91cm fish. Jo Starling bettered her personal best with an 84cm fish caught on the Squidgy prawn lure that her husband Steve - "Starlo" - no doubt designed with fish like this in mind.
Bream are notoriously finicky feeders on lures and rarely grow longer than 40cm, so bream fishing can be highly technical, sometimes delicate and extremely addictive. There were 60 anglers who caught a bream greater than the minimum fork length of 23cm, roughly equivalent to the official minimum length of 25cm to the tip.
With only 90 minutes remaining on the final day, Mark Brown seemingly had the prize for biggest bream secured, with several fish measuring around 33cm.
Then the tide turned. In an action-packed 10 minutes the biggest bream and second largest flathead were landed within seconds of each other.
First, Justin Lee, who was fishing in a small channel next to some flats, hooked up. After several anxious minutes the fish revealed itself to be an 88cm flathead. Before the commotion had died down Stuart Smith, who was just around the corner, felt a bump on his small diving lure. After a spirited run over the weed beds, this fish too was safely cradled in the net. This bream measured 33.5cm to the fork, the largest for the tournament by the width of a fingernail.
These last two hours of the final day, just after high tide, were some of the most eventful. It was a timely reminder that subtle changes in the conditions can switch the fish on and off and persistence is often rewarded.
The champion angler was Daniel Dowley, whose bream (31cm, 30cm) and flathead (85cm, 46.5cm) gave him a comfortable lead at the top. Thanks are due to the major sponsors, Rapala, Wilson, Berkley, Z-man, TT-lures and all the local businesses that lent their support.
Graham Fifield www.flickandflyjournal.com