Fishing for Flathead: Facts, Catching & Cooking

Here at Wahoo Fishing Charters, we frequently come across flathead fish on our reef fishing expeditions around Sydney.

Available all year round, it’s one of the easiest fish to catch and one of the tastiest to eat – so what’s not to love?

Read on to learn more about this classic fish, how to reel it in and what you can do with it when you do…

Flathead Facts

The most common type of Australian flathead is the Dusky flathead. They can grow up to 15kg and reach up to 1.5m in length. Other species include the Tiger Flathead and the Bluespotted Flathead.

The natural colour of a flathead is either medium brown all over or dark green with a brown tinge. Brown spots cover their pectoral fins and black blotches mark their tails. This makes them great at camouflaging in sandy bottoms and weed beds. Their wide head gives them good binocular vision to pounce on overhead prey.

Unlike many other fish, flatheads don’t change genders as they grow. The juvenile stage determines the sex of a flathead, and it remains the same for its entire lifespan. If it’s a female, it can carry anywhere from 300,000 to 3.9 million eggs.

The world record for the biggest flathead ever caught is a title still held by Ken Paulie from America. Whilst fishing for flathead in Kansas in 1998, he hooked one weighing a whooping 123 pounds – that’s about 56kg!

Flathead Legal Size in NSW

Recreational fishing rules were updated in August 2022 for Dusky flathead anglers.

By law, flatheads caught must be a minimum of 36cm and a maximum of 70cm. Anything outside of this size range must be released back into the water.

Daily bag limits are 5 per person, and the possession limit is 10 per person.

Best Time to Fish for Flathead

Although there is no official closed season for catching flathead, the peak time to go flathead fishing is from April to May and September to October.

Flathead Fishing Spots in Sydney

Some of the best places to target flathead are areas where shallow water turns into deeper water, also known as drop-offs.

Port Hacking on the Cronulla coast is a great example, as it’s where the mouth of the river meets the sea. Flatheads love these estuaries and are particularly active here during hide tides.

Other places they’re known to call home include the Cooks River entrance in Botany Bay, along the Hawkesbury River, near Gladesville Wharf and Huntley’s Point Wharf on the Parramatta River, under Tom Uglys Bridge on the Georges River, Gunnamatta Bay and the Lilli Pilli Sand Flats in Southern Sydney.

How to Catch Flathead

Flatheads eat a wide variety of things, including other fish, crustaceans, and molluscs. This means you have choices when it comes to fishing.

The best bait for flathead can be alive or dead. You’ll most likely coax them out with herring, mullet, saltwater whitebait, squid and pilchards, pipies, yabbies, prawns and mussels.

The best soft plastics for flathead and the best lures for flatheads are shads, grubs and paddle tails. These flathead lures work well when they hit the bottom and simulate dead or injured prey.

How to Cook Flathead

Flatheads are great table fishes. They are slightly sweet, not oily, and have lightly textured flesh. Bones are mostly in the head region so they are easy to remove.

The best way to cook flathead depends on the meal you are preparing. You can steam, poach, pan-fry, deep-fry, bake, grill, or barbecue it. Cut the whole fish into serving-size chunks so they heat evenly.

Cooking flathead on the barbeque or in the oven can dry it out, so it’s best to wrap it in foil first.

Flathead Fish Recipes

When Australians think of flathead fish, they associate it with fish ‘n’ chips, but they can use it for so much more.

Flathead pairs perfectly with a cherry tomato glaze, a fresh salsa or a simple crunchy coleslaw. You can put tender strips into taco shells, spicy fish curries or a stir-fry with vegetables.

Plain flathead fillets go nicely with yoghurt and a drizzle of lemon and lime. Beer-battered flathead goes great with a serving of tartare sauce and dill. Salt and pepper flathead tails are also tasty.

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Sydney Blocked DrainsSydney Blocked Drains
10:19 17 Feb 23
We have been on Wahoo Charters 3 times now and have gone home with more fish than we could have ever dreamed of.George and the crew are friendly, knowledgeable and funny!This last time we bagged 4 kings over 1 meter.Always a good time on their boats.Thanks boys!
Alex HuntingtonAlex Huntington
08:34 10 Jan 22
Tight lines all day. All the boiz got to winch in a few 1m+ Kingies each.
Tanvir KhanTanvir Khan
04:53 29 Dec 20
We went out on a charter today and whilst the weather was against us, Sev and Josh did everything they could to get us on to the fish. I highly recommend George and his team for your next fishing charter. We will be back.
Merryzz V2 AccMerryzz V2 Acc
02:15 02 Apr 20
Had a awesome time with George out bottom bashing, he was very knowledgeable and experienced in his trade. Definitely planing on going out with wahoo charters again, had a great day and was for myself the first time deep sea fishing and i loved every bit of it. Really recommend to use this company!
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