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 waters.

Fishing 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.

By Steve Starling

Saltwater Species:

Albacore Barracouta
Barracuda Barramundi
Blue Groper Boniti
Bream Coral Trout
Drummer Flathead
Garfish John Dory
Kingfish Leatherjacket
Luderick Mako Shark
Mangrove Lack Marlin
Mullet Mulloway
Queenfish Sailfish
Salmon Shark
Skipjack Tuna Snapper
Snook Tailor