Flathead for the Future

​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.

Sand flathead stock status IMAS

Southern sand flathead stock status summary from the IMAS Scalefish Assessment Report 2020-21

Animation - Sand Flathead Need Your Help


Rebuilding stocks

IMAS research indicates:

  • The number of legal-size flathead is decreasing.
  • The average size of a flathead is getting smaller.
  • 70% of flathead are caught within a year of reaching legal size.
  • Large breeding females are depleted in most areas.
  • Undersize flathead appear plentiful, but fishing is removing the faster-growing flathead, leaving more genetically stunted fish to breed.
  • Current fishing levels are not sustainable – we need to reduce flathead catch.

Size limit changes and a bag limit reduction in 2015 aimed to improve flathead stock levels, but heavy fishing pressure particularly on females, has led to further declines.

A range of potential options are being considered, Management changes will be targeted towards sand flathead, not tiger flathead which is currently assessed as sustainable.

Other actions include:

  • Continuing research into sand flathead stocks; and
  • Fisher education and stewardship programs.

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

Public activities

From January 2023, the Recreational Fishing Team will roll out the Flathead for the Future program to engage the recreational community by informing them about stock challenges, listening to fisher views, and promoting greater stewardship.
  • Flathead Discovery Days – interactive events exploring Tasmania's flathead species and the science behind how we manage stocks
  • Fisher liaison at boat ramps, jetties and fishing spots
  • Fishing clinics
  • Regional shows
  • Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about sand flathead.
Follow the Fishcare Events Page for more details.


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

Potential management options

Any proposed rule changes to address depleted sand flathead stocks will be included in a review of the Fisheries (Scalefish) Rules 2015. Formal consultation will occur around March 2023 and all fishers will be encouraged to have their say.

Any changes would not take effect until 1 November 2023.

More information

Responsible fishing tips - Sand Flathead


    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