Flathead, Dusky or Lizard Fishing
Flathead come from a Platycephalidae family which are closely related to Scorpaeniforms who are relatives of the lionfish. They have up to 30 species. Most common species are; Dusky, Sand, Bar-Tail, Eastern Blue Spot, Southern Blue Spot, and Tiger. The most common caught flat head out of these fish is the Dusky or sometimes known as Estuary flathead, Mud Flathead, Black Flathead, Flattie, Frog or Lizard.
The Dusky Is the largest Flathead out of all 30 species and can range up to sizes of 150cm in length or 10kg in weight. The colours of these species are very variable and depend highly on the area, in which they live, (bottom or ground colour). They can range from a very light sandy colour all the way to a jet black look, although the fishes belly or underside is always a lighter creamy colour.
Bar-Tailed flathead which are mainly target in Swan estuary grown up to 1 meter but anything over 55cm is worth bragging about. They are found in sand, light rock and gravel environments and are identified by their white stripes horizontal to their black tail with yellow blotches on top of their fins.
Eastern Blue Spot flathead or Red spotted Flathead are regularly caught on sand flats in the NSW region of Australia, and as described in their name they have three or four black circle shape bars on the lower part of the tail fin.
Southern Blue Spot Flathead also known as a long nose or shovelnose flatheads are one of the best eating flatheads out of the family, they are identified by their grey-green spots on the top part of their tail and only consist of having one dorsal spine where many others have two or three. Anything over 1kg is classified as a great catch but they can grown up to 8kg in size. The Southern Blue Spot flathead feeds around weed beds and patches.
Tiger Flathead are the brightest flathead out of the family with its distinguishable reddish- orange or reddish-brown base colour with bright orange spots and has a more cylindrical body. The Tiger flathead only grows up to the size of 2.5kg, they are a deeper water fish and most regularly caught around 80 fathoms in the Victoria and Tasmania parts of Australia but sometimes found in harbours or bays.
Sand Flathead are made up of two species the northern sand and southern sand flathead. The Northern can reach lengths of 45cm and is regularly found in estuaries or beaches where the southern sand flathead can reach a weight of 3kg, they are identified by their long, horizontal black strips on tail.
The Flathead are ambush predators and occasional scavengers who rarely form schools. They camouflaged themselves by lying in amongst the seabed or mud and have an extremely fast reaction time which helps when feeding on such bait as prawns, crabs, octopuses, squid, shrimp and a wide range of small bait fish.
You can fish for flathead with a large range of techniques; Live baits such as herring or small mullet with a light or no sinker to keep them near the bottom works well. Bait such as mullet, garfish, Pilchards, Whitebait, and anchovies or strips of Tailor, Yellow Tail or tuna can be used. A single hook with two sinkers is one good rig as the sinkers will bang together to create vibration. Another method is to slowly retrieve or troll with bait and/or slowly jerking or bouncing (known as yo-yoing) the bait off the bottom. Flathead will also feed on Prawns, Yabbies and pipis, it is always best to keep your bait moving along the bottom with the aim of getting your bait as close to the flathead as possible.
Flathead are also a largely targeted species for lure fishing; Soft plastics, Minnows, metal slugs and the like are widely used to catch this fish. Flathead are a strategic fish and use drop off’s, gutter, weed beds and sand flats mixed with tides and current to their advantage and are commonly caught around these areas.
Flathead are a great table fish although the larger species flesh tends to be a bit dry.
Records 14Kg flathead caught in Mallacoota in Vitoria, with another being caught in McLeay River NSW weighing in a 6.030 KG according to all tackle records.
Books; Australian Fish Id Pocket Guide – Published 2017 – Author Australian Fishing Network
The Fisherman’s hand Book – Published 1988 – Author Steve Starling.