FLATHEAD: DUSKY, SAND and TIGER
Sci: Platycephalus fuscus, P.arenarius, P. caeruleopunctatus,
P. speculator, P. bassensis and Neoplatycephalus richadsoni
Common Names: The dusky is the largest member of the family Platycephalidae, which contains more than 30 species, at least 14 of which are taken by anglers from time to time. Most of the more common flathead may be separated and identified by carefully examining the colouration and markings on the tail or caudal fin. The dusky flathead or dusky is also known as the estuary flathead and mud flathead, while it and other members of this extensive family are also commonly referred to as "flatties", "frogs", "lizards", "croc's" and "Yanks".
Description: Flathead are characterised by their flattened bodies (less flattened in the tiger flathead), broad, spade-like heads, large mouths and fine teeth. Sets of sharp spines covered in mildly venomous mucus are located on the gill covers. The flathead's camouflaged colouration is extremely variable, ranging from very light sandy white or fawn with darker bars and blue, red and black spots or "stars" to brick red or almost jet black. The flathead's belly is almost always creamy, creamy-yellow or white.
Size: Duskies are the giants of the flathead clan, very occasionally topping 1.2 metres and 10 kg in weight. The other species rarely exceed 3 or 4 kg in weight and are much more common at sizes between 0.2 and 1.5 kg.
Distribution: Flathead are found right around the
Australian coastline; in rivers, estuaries, bays, harbours
and offshore waters. The dusky is mostly an estuarine and
inshore species of the east coast, ranging southwards from
about Rockhampton or Mackay in Queensland to Wilsons Promontory
and eastern Bass Strait in Victoria. The sand flathead are
more wide ranging and usually occur in inshore areas, while
the tiger flathead is a deeper water species with a range
extending southwards from Sydney into Victorian and Tasmanian
Techniques: Flathead may be fished for in a variety of ways. Many
are taken on bottom-fished or drifted baits of small, live or dead "poddy"mullet
or herring, pilchards, whitebait, sprats, anchovy and strips of mullet,
tailor, yellowtail, tuna or garfish, as well as yabbies, nippers, marine
worms, shellfish and prawns. When using dead baits, results are often
improved by retrieving the bait slowly over the seabed, or by using the
tide and current to keep the boat or rig moving. Flathead are also a recognised
lure and fly fishing target. They respond particularly well to small and
medium sized metal spoons, rubber-tailed jigs, floating/diving or sinking
minnows, plugs and streamer flies. These should be presented close to
the bottom for best results.
Eating Qualities: Flathead are highly rated table fish with firm, white and flaky flesh which tends towards dryness in larger fish. They are best suited to recipes which help to maintain moisture content in the flesh while cooking.