Deepwater flathead are superb table fishes, with finely textured flesh. The use of a sauce or marinade adds to the flavour and texture.

They are a popular choice for traditional preparation of a light battering, and served with chips and tartare or mayonnaise.

Download our species guide on common species caught in AFMA managed fisheries.



image icon of a fishing boat Fishing mortality
Not subject to overfishing
image icon of a fish Biomass
Not overfished


Scientific name: Neoplatycephalus conatus (also known as Platycephalus conatus)

Family: Platycephalidae

Other names: Trawl flathead

Description: Deepwater flathead have a flat triangular shaped head and a long tapering body. They are greenish purple to grey on the back and whitish on the belly. The sides are often blotched grey. The fins are grey and there is a dark blotch on the operculum (the hard bony flap covering the gills).

Size (length and weight): Up to about 95 cm in length and 4 kg. Commonly found at 45‑65 cm and 0.7‑1.8 kg. Females grow larger than males.

Life span: Up to 15-20 years. Females live longer than males.

Habitat: Deepwater flathead are a demersal species that lives on the continental shelf and slope. They can be found at depths of 70-490 metres. They are well camouflaged and spend the majority of their life buried in sand or mud, with just the eyes or upper parts of the head exposed. Deepwater flathead potentially aggregate by gender.

Prey: Small fish, crustaceans, squid, polychaetes, molluscs and echinoderms.

Predators: May include dogfish.

Reproduction: Females reach reproductive maturity at 5-6 years of age, with males maturing at 4-5 years of age. Deepwater flathead aggregate for spawning. Spawning occurs in late spring and summer, but may extend into early autumn. Females produce 0.5‑3.5 million eggs per spawning season.

Other notes: Has been confused with the southern blue-spotted flathead P. speculator until recently.


Fishery found inGear usedCatch of this species is targeted or incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Great Australian Bight Trawl SectorBottom trawl and Danish seineTargeted
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Commonwealth Trawl SectorBottom trawlIncidental

Management of catch

The Commonwealth catch of deepwater flathead is managed by quota. Which means the catch of this fish by commercial fishers is restricted by weight.

Commercial fishermen are required to fill in records of their catches, during each fishing trip and when they land their catch in a port. This helps us keep records of how much is being caught.

AFMA decide on the amount that can be caught each year from expert advice and recommendations from fisheries managers, industry members, scientist and researchers.

Area caught

Deepwater flathead are predominantly found in shelf waters at a depth of approximately 120-200metres.

Deepwater flathead are endemic to southern Australian waters.

Catches of this species peak in October – December.

Fishing gear and environmental impacts

Deepwater flathead are caught using trawl nets and Danish seine nets.

Sometimes, bottom trawling can catch unwanted species of fish (not the type of fish the net was supposed to catch). This is known as bycatch and it is monitored by on-board fishery observers who assess the environmental impact of the trawling.

Although it is not physically possible to trawl on reef structures, significant long-term damage can occur if sensitive habitat areas like corals, sponges and seagrass beds are trawled. To ensure these sensitive habitat areas are protected from trawling, management arrangements such as area closures are extensively used.

There are a number of management arrangements and strategies used with the aim to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment. In the Great Australian Bight Sector, this includes:

  • minimum mesh sizes for bottom trawls to reduce the catch of small and juvenile fish
  • mitigation devices to reduce interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species
  • and closing areas to fishing to protect vulnerable species and habitats.

AFMA carries out ecological risk assessments for all of its major fisheries. AFMA mitigates or reduces that impact through its ecological risk management strategy.

Want to know more?

This is just an overview of deepwater flathead,  if you want to know more see the links below:

Sustainability – see the most recent Fishery status report

Management – this fish is managed under the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery

Expert adviceGreat Australian Bight Resource Assessment Group and the Great Australian Bight Management Advisory Committee

Environmental impactsBycatch and discard program

Eating and cooking – Visit the FRDC Fishfiles website for the best cooking techniques and recipes for this fish