Flathead for the Future

Sand Flathead - Interim Bag and Size Limit Changes

To alleviate fishing pressure on depleted sand flathead stocks while the Scalefish Rules review is undertaken, the following interim measures apply until 31 October 2023:
  1. Increasing the minimum size limit of sand flathead from 32 to 35 centimetres for recreational and commercial fishers;
  2. Reducing the recreational bag limit to from 20 to 10 fish; and
  3. Prohibiting commercial fishing for sand flathead in Frederick Henry and Norfolk Bays.

More information
  • There are no changes to catch limits for other flathead species.
  • Commercial fishing for sand flathead in Frederick Henry and Norfolk Bays is closed until 31 October 2023.
  • The minimum size of 35 cm also applies to commercial fishing. 
Sand flathead - catch limits and fishing information

The Government is working with fishers, researchers and the community to address a serious decline in sand flathead stocks. 

Sand flathead is the most popular recreational fish in Tasmania, with around 1.6 million caught each year, accounting for almost 70 per cent of all recreational fish.

Recreational fishers take the majority of sand flathead - 98% or 184 tonnes - in Tasmania. Only 2 per cent are taken by commercial fishers. 

Sand flathead

Southern sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) is the most popular recreational fish in Tasmania

Sand flathead stock status

Many fishers are noticing that it's harder to catch a legal-size sand flathead in many areas, particularly around the south east and east coasts.  They are increasingly reporting high numbers of undersized sand flathead. These trends are also being seen in scientific sampling.

The Scalefish Assessment Report 2020-2021 from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) assessed the sand flathead stock status as depleted.

The fishery biomass is down to 17% in some regions, below the nationally recognised level of 20% of unfished biomass where urgent management action is required.

​​Recreational catches dominate landings of southern sand flathead in Tasmania. Fishery independent surveys suggest low abundances of legal sized fish in southeast and eastern Tasmania where populations are subject to heavy fishing pressure. While undersized fish appear to be abundant, newly introduced length-based assessment approaches indicate that female stock biomass is likely to be depleted in most regions. Moreover, current levels of fishing pressure are unlikely to be sustainable, specifically where stock rebuilding is likely to be most urgently needed.

More information

Learn more about the stock status, and what we can do to help recover the fishery.

 Sand Flathead Whats Happening in the Fishery

 Scientific Advice on Sand Flathead Management Scenarios

Animation - Sand Flathead Need Your Help


Rebuilding stocks

Heavy fishing pressure has impacted on sand flathead in a number of ways:

  • Numbers of legal-size flathead are low.
  • The average size of a flathead is getting smaller.
  • Most flathead are caught within a year of reaching legal size in heavily fished areas.
  • Large breeding females are depleted in most areas.
  • Fishing is removing faster-growing fish, leaving more genetically stunted flathead to breed.

Current fishing levels are not sustainable – we need to reduce flathead catch.

How fishers can help

  • Take fewer sand flathead.
  • Target sustainable species such as tiger flathead, Australian salmon, mackerel and mullet.
  • Use a dehooker to release your flathead.
  • Use circle hooks when bait fishing.
  • Never use undersize flathead for bait.

Fisher engagement


The Flathead for the Future program is engaging the recreational community by informing them about stock challenges, listening to fisher views, and promoting greater stewardship.
  • Flathead Discovery Days
  • Fisher liaison at boat ramps, jetties and fishing spots
  • Fishing clinics
  • Regional shows
Follow the Events Page for more details.


To address concerns about sand flathead stocks, IMAS is leading two key research projects:

Proposed management changes

Rule changes to improve sand flathead management are part of a review of the Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 2015.

Any changes to recreational rules would not take effect until 1 November 2023.


    Recreational Fishing Enquiries
    Level 3, 134 Macquarie St
    Hobart TAS 7000
    Phone: 03 6165 3233, 1300 720 647
    Email: fishing.enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au


    Fishwatch Report illegal fishing

    0427 655 557

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    Contact us

    Recreational Fishing

    Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

    Hobart TAS 7000

    Phone: (03) 6165 3233, 1300 720 647

    Email: fishing.enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au

    Commercial Fisheries

    Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

    GPO Box 44

    Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550

    Email: commercial.fisheries@nre.tas.gov.au

    Commercial Fisheries Licensing

    Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

    GPO Box 44

    Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550

    Email: fishing.licensing@nre.tas.gov.au