Flathead, Dusky

(Platycephalus fuscus)

Commonly referred to as Lizards!

The Dusky flathead is the largest of its species and is commonly encountered throughout the eastern states of Australia. They are highly sought after as not only a fun summer time fishing option but are also growing in popularity as a table fish with many. Flatties are a great way to chill for a couple of hours during hot summer spells and loads of fun to chase for the whole family. There are over 50 species of flathead found here in Australia making them one of the most recognisable and commonly caught species in the country.

Distribution

Dusky flathead can be located from as far south as northern VIC up through N.S.W and into Queensland throughout Australia and prefer shallow water to 10 meters in depth.

Growth

Very little is still known about flathead growth rates here in Australia. Most flathead species have larger females than males with an average dusky measuring around 40 – 50cm in most locations around the country.  The largest specimens encountered average around 1.5 meters in length and can weigh as much as 15kg although anything over a meter is considered an angling milestone.

Habitat

Dusky flathead prefer areas of mixed sand, weed and rock with good numbers of small bait fish present and access to deeper water near by. Shallow estuary systems with water depths from 0.5 – 10 meters are best suited to most flathead species.

Identification

Dusky flathead can be recognised by the distinctive flag like pattern located on the tail. This pattern has a black spot in the upper half and a white border. Dusky flathead are also generally a lot larger than other varieties of flathead encountered throughout the country.

Taste rating

  • Eighty Taste Rating
    80%

Great fish to pan fry and eat simply with lemon and salt.

Sport rating

  • Seventy Sport Rating
    70%

Dusky flathead are a reasonable sport fish that are fairly powerful over a  short distance in shallow water.

Tackle requirements

Ultra light and light graphite spin rods 6’6” – 7’ in length that will cope with gel spun and braided lines rated from 3 – 5kg are ideally suited to targeting most flathead species and when coupled with quality spin reels in the 2500 – 4000 class make excellent outfits for throwing both baits and lures for flathead. Larger outfits spooled with heavier 12 – 15lb nylon line can also be used when targeting larger fish around heavy cover but will struggle to cast small hard bodied and soft plastic lures good distances. Fluoro carbon leaders with breaking strains of  30 – 50lb should also be joined to mainlines via an improved Albrite knot and not only prevent the fish from seeing your brightly coloured main line but also help from being chaffed of on sharp gills and teeth.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Fresh or live river prawns, blood worms and small bait fish such as boney herring and mullet as well as small fresh mullies/pilchards are an ideal bait option for chasing flathead and should be fished on a pattern and size of hook that’s suit’s the bait. Example – blood worm fished on long shank or bait holder pattern of hook or whole pilchard fitted with ganged hooks. Using a float to suspend live baits an inch or so from the sea floor and then drifted down deeper channels is a great method of locating larger specimens. Hard bodied, sub surface and soft plastic lures will also temp flathead into striking with this exciting new style of fishing really taking off amongst all anglers from beginners to the pro’s over the last few years.

Handy hints and tips

Be very careful when handling all flathead species as they have a serous set of gill spikes located around the back of the head, if stung by these rub some slime from the belly of the fish onto the wound and this should subdue the pain considerably.

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting flathead around most areas although some deep water locations will also produce good numbers of fish during low and falling tides. Full moon phases are also preferable for flathead with much higher tidal movements better suited to this species.

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