Flathead - Sand

​​Other names: common flathead, slimy flathead, bay flathead, sand flathead, sandy flathead, flathead

Scientific name: Platycephalus bassensis

Minimum size: 32 cm

Bag limit: 20 (sand and tiger flathead combined)

Possession limit: 30 (sand and tiger flathead combined)

Identifying features: Sand flathead have a long and narrow body with a broad, flattened head.  They are a sandy brown or mottled colour above and white below with occasional reddish brown spots along sides.  There may also be dark bands across the body and a distinctive black spot on the tail.  Scales are present even though they are covered with a protective slime.  The lower spine on the gill cover is longer than the upper spine.

Grows to: Up to 45 cm and 3 kg.

Habitat: Sand flathead are a bottom dwelling fish usually found in abundant numbers in inshore waters all around Tasmania.  They prefer shallow waters of around 0-25 metres depth and a weed free, sandy bottom.  

Fishing information: Sand flathead are the most commonly caught recreational species in Tasmania, accounting for two-thirds of all fish caught.  They are present around the state in large numbers and are relatively easy to catch.  They can be caught on a variety of baits and lures providing they are fished close to a sandy bottom as they don’t usually rise more than one metre from the bottom to take a bait.  Flathead are often caught from a boat that is drifting slowly so the fish see the bait as it passes by.  May also be encountered at night when spearing for flounder.

Responsible fishing tips: 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.  If you catch a tagged flathead, please record the tag details and report to the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Research​.

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

Public Health advice:  The Director of Public Health advises people to limits meals of Derwent caught scalefish including flathead due to heavy metal contamination - refer to the Department of Health and Human Services or phone their hotline on 1800 671 738.

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.  Popular as fish and chips.

Black Spots in Flathead Fillets

A flathead showing signs of black spots in the flesh

Have you noticed black flesh or spots in your sand flathead fillets? This is a phenomonen known as melanisation which is the subject of research at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.  Help their research by reporting your catch using the Black Fillets Project online form. Read the outcomes of their survey or the full report.

Flathead Fact Sheets

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

Fish illustrations by Peter Gouldthorpe
Fish for the Future