Southern Sand Flathead

Sand Flathead
© Tasmanian Government. Image Peter Gouldthorpe
Season: Open All Year
​​ map
bag house boat
D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Derwent River, Frederick Henry and Norfolk Bays
Eastern Zone
Northern / Western Zone
King and Flinders Islands
Overall limits apply for sand and tiger flathead combined: Bag-20, Possession-30

Guide to symbols

bagBag Limit
housePossession Limit
boatBoat Limit

Minimum size

All waters (except King and Flinders Islands):
Minimum size 35cm, maximum size 40cm

King and Flinders Islands:
Minimum size 35cm, no maximum size


Most scalefish are measured from the nose to the end of the tail. Get your scalefish measuring ruler or sticker at any Service Tasmania outlet.

Stock status


Other names

common flathead, slimy flathead, bay flathead, sand flathead, sandy flathead, flathead

Scientific name

Platycephalus bassensis

Grows to

Up to

60cm and 1.5kg

Identifying features

​Sand flathead have a long and narrow body with a broad, flattened head. They are a sandy brown or mottled colour above and white below with occasional reddish brown spots along sides. 

There may also be dark bands across the body and a distinctive black spot on the tail. Scales are present even though they are covered with a protective slime. The lower spine on the gill cover is longer than the upper spine.​

Tiger flathead and bluespotted flathead can be commonly mistaken for sand flathead.

Sand flathead can be distinguished from tiger flathead by the teeth and tail markings. Sand flathead have flat, raspy teeth and a dark blotch on the lower part of the tail. Tiger flathead have large canine teeth and no dark markings on their tail.

Sand flathead can be distinguished from bluespotted flathead by the gillcover spines and tail-markings. On sand flathead, the lower gillcover spine is longer than the upper. On bluespotted flathead the spines are similar length. Sand flathead generally have one large dark blotch on the lower part of their tail, while bluespotted flathead have multiple black/brown spots surrounded by white.

Tap the magnifying glass to view an image gallery of identifying features.

Watch a video to learn how to ID different flathead species in Tasmania.

Size and bag limit zones map

Sand flathead recreational regions and catch limits

Sand flathead recreational regions and catch limits

Sand flathead recreational - southeast detail

Sand flathead recreational southeast detail Tasmania

Moving between zones

You can move between sand flathead zones, including with fish in your possession that were caught in a different zone (*as long as your fish are within the size limit of the region you are entering). However, you must follow the daily bag limits for the zone you caught the fish in. You must also abide by the statewide possession limit (10).

*You can't bring a sand flathead over 40cm from the King or Flinders Islands Zone into the Northern/Western Zone.

Example: If you have caught 5 sand flathead in Storm Bay (Eastern Zone), you can bring these fish back into the Derwent River to access your point of landing, even though the Derwent River has a bag limit of 2.

Fishing in multiple zones

You can fish for sand flathead in more than one zone in one day but you must not take more than the daily bag limit in each zone. A possession limit of 10 fish in total still applies.


Sand flathead are a bottom dwelling fish usually found in inshore waters all around Tasmania. They prefer shallow waters of around 0-25 metres depth and a weed free, sandy bottom.

Fishing information

Sand flathead are the most commonly caught recreational species in Tasmania, accounting for two-thirds of all fish caught. They are present around the state and are relatively easy to catch. They can be caught on a variety of baits and lures providing they are fished close to a sandy bottom as they don’t usually rise more than one metre from the bottom to take a bait. Flathead are often caught from a boat that is drifting slowly so the fish see the bait as it passes by. May also be encountered at night when spearing for flounder.


Beware of short, sharp spines on the flathead’s gill covers and dorsal fin.

Public Health advice

The Director of Public Health advises people to limits meals of Derwent caught scalefish including flathead due to heavy metal contamination - refer to the Department of Health and Human Services or phone their hotline on 1800 671 738.


Low oil content with a pleasant, sweet flavour. Fine textured flesh which can dry out slightly with some cooking methods but remains moist and flaky when cooked in batter. The long shape of flathead means that it fillets well as most of the bones are at the head section of the fish. Also retains moisture well when cooked as whole fish. Suitable to bake in foil, shallow or deep fry, marinate, poach or steam. Popular as fish and chips.

Recipe - Easy Cook Flatties:

2 flathead fillets; 2 tbsp rice or plain flour; salt and pepper; 2 tbsp olive oil.

Place flour and salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Place fish fillets into bag and shake bag. Remove fillets dust off excess flour. Heat oil in a large frypan to medium heat. Place fish into pan, cook for 3 minutes then turn over and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Recipe - Beer Battered Flathead:

500 grams flathead fillets; ½ cup flour; salt; 1 tbsp oil; ½ cup beer and 1 egg white; stiffly beaten.

Mix flour and salt, gradually add liquid and stir until smooth. Leave for 10-15 minutes. Gently fold in egg white. Dip flathead fillets lightly in flour before dipping in the batter. Heat oil to 180°C for deep frying or shallow fry in a wide pan.

Black spots in flathead fillets

Black spots in flathead

A flathead showing signs of black spots in the flesh

Have you noticed black flesh or spots in your sand flathead fillets? This is a phenomonen known as melanisation which is the subject of research at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Read about their Black Fillets Project research and report your catch using the online form.

Flathead Fact Sheets

How to Increase the Survival of Released Flathead

How to Release Flathead using a Fish De-hooker


Fishwatch Report illegal fishing

0427 655 557

What to report? arrow button

Contact us

Recreational Fishing

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

Hobart TAS 7000

Phone: (03) 6165 3233, 1300 720 647


Commercial Fisheries

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550


Commercial Fisheries Licensing

Level 1, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550