Flathead - Dusky

Other names: black flathead, mud flathead, river flathead

Scientific name: Platycephalus fuscus

Minimum size: 32 cm

Bag limit: 20 (flathead species other than bluespotted and rock combined)

Possession limit: 30 (flathead species other than bluespotted and rock combined)

Identifying features: Dusky flathead are sandy brown in colour with small spots over the body and fins. The tail fin has a dark spot which may disappear with growth.  There are two prominent angled spines on the gill cover, the lower one longer than the upper one.  These spines are similar in length to those found on the southern bluespotted flathead.

Grows to: Up to 1.2 metres and 15 kg.

Habitat: Found in shallow sand and muddy estuaries, lagoons and inshore areas.  

Fishing information: This is the largest of the flatheads in Australia.  In Tasmania, it is sometimes confused with the southern bluespotted flathead because of its size.  Not common in most parts of Tasmania, it is reported to occur in small numbers around Flinders Island and the north coast but there have been no confirmed identifications.  They can be taken from a boat or from shore as they are known to come into shallow waters including river mouths and estuaries. Duskies are usually targeted using hard or soft bodies lures or bait.

Responsible fishing tips: Large flathead over 55 cm are usually breeding females so as this is over the current size limit, only take what you need for a feed and release any others unharmed. Get to know all the flathead species to assist with identification.  Flathead have good survival rates when handled correctly, depending on hooks and fishing techniques used.  Use circle and barbless hooks on your line and a fish de-hooker to quickly return undersize flathead to the water. Log any sightings with Redmap.

Handling: Beware of short, sharp spines on the flathead’s gill covers and dorsal fin.

Cooking: Low oil content with a pleasant, sweet flavour.  Fine textured flesh which can dry out slightly with some cooking methods but remains moist and flaky when cooked in batter.  The long shape of flathead means that it fillets well as most of the bones are at the head section of the fish.  Also retains moisture well when cooked as whole fish.  Suitable to bake in foil, shallow or deep fry, marinate, poach or steam.

Flathead Fact Sheets

How to Increase the Survival of Released Flathead
How to Release Flathead using a Fish De-hooker

Fish illustration by Peter Gouldthorpe

Fish for the Future