Flathead, Northern Bar-tailed

(Platycephalus arenarius)

Commonly referred to as flatties!

The northern, bar tailed flathead as its name suggests is the most common species of flathead encountered in the northern half of Australia and is highly sought after as not only a fun summer time fishing option but is 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 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.


Northern bar tailed flathead as their name suggests can be located from as far north as the Swan River, Perth right up through the magnificent Kimberley region and across the top end down into northern Queensland throughout Australia.


Very little is still known about flathead growth rates here in .Australia, most flathead species have larger females than males with an average bar tail measuring around 35 – 40cm in most northern Australian locations.  The largest specimens encountered average around 60 – 70cm in length.


Bar tailed 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 bar tailed flathead.


The bar tailed flathead can not be identified as its name suggests by the bars on its tail but rather by the yellow colouration found on the tail of the fish. Most flathead species have bars on the tail and this is generally not a good indicator of species identification.

Taste rating

  • Eighty Taste Rating

Great fish to pan fry and eat simply.

Sport rating

  • Fifty Sport Rating

Flathead are a poor sport fish that are only powerful over a very 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 1 – 4kg are ideally suited to targeting most flathead species and when coupled with quality spin reels in the 1000 – 2500 class make excellent outfits for throwing both baits and lures for flathead. Larger outfits spooled with heavier 10 – 12lb 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  10 – 15lb 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 rough underwater structures 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 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 similar in size to the bait. Hard bodied, sub surface and soft plastic lures from 50mm – 120mm in length 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. Try to keep the flat head’s head under the water during the landing process as these fish are famous for sawing their way through light leaders when being lifted!

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.

Click here to watch Nick talk about catching flathead on Perth Fishing TV Live.


[What The Fish]