The fish which terrorizes our beautiful surf gutters, dominates the deep channels of the estuaries on high tide and is also synonymous with speed and accuracy. That fish is the elite athlete of the sea – Pomatomus saltatrix or Tailor. Tailor a sleek, slick and slippery, with pale silvery green colourings along the back, silver on the belly and a distinctive forked tail. They grow to just over a meter in length and the biggest to top the scales that we know of was 14kg. They are well known for their large powerful jaws with sharp canine teeth and I will vouch for this after an incident where my sister almost lost her big toe while flicking lures for chopper tailor off the motorway bridge one Autumn. All I will say is her thong took a battering as Mr Chopper took a sizable mouthful of rubber only millimetres from her toe.
Tailor dominate the surface water along Coastal Waters between Agnes Waters North Qld and Onslow in WA. Tailor come and go as conditions or food sources change, they travel in schools with the larger variety (green-backs) hanging along ocean beaches and the juveniles (choppers) entering estuaries in smaller schools. In Queensland the current minimum size for tailor is 30cm long and bag limits are set at 20 fish per angler. Next year the minimum size is increasing to 35cm on March 1, 2010.
Tailor are very sought after by both your sporting angler and those of us who love to eat fish as they are one of the better tasting fish and also come with plenty of omega 3 oils! Be sure to bleed your fish on capture by breaking its neck. Boat anglers can catch tailor in the open ocean, but rocky headlands and ocean gutters, with plenty of white water on the outer edge are better spots. Dusk or early morning on a rising tide are excellent conditions but tailor can be caught through the day as well. So you are thinking that tailor sound like fun? Well choose where you would like to fish firstly and then gear up accordingly.
Beach fishing is a great way to target both greenbacks and chopper tailor. Before venturing onto the beach with rod and bucket in hand, it’s wise to check out the surf conditions from a high vantage point. Observe how the waves are breaking, where the whitewash is forming and where the darker blue channels are. Gutters are where the fish will be moving. A gutter is recognised as a channel of deeper water, characterised by dark blue or green colours, and usually running parallel to the beach. Outer sand banks create gutters in front of them and as waves to break and make white wash the fish move freely as the white wash provides cover for them while also stirring up the sand and exposing food. Gutters are variable in length and can have an outlet back to the sea at one or both ends.
The ideal gutters to look for are narrow and well within casting distance to reach the outer bank. An angler can simply cast over the gutter landing on the shallower waters of the sand bank, and then slowly retrieve the bait back through the deeper waters of the gutter. This technique is known as bait spinning and is best done with a whole fish bait coupled with as little lead as possible. Fish can often be found where a gutter empties to the sea. The surge of water in and out, stirs up the sand and smaller bait fish are in a frenzied feeding race, unaware that a tailor is about to hit it faster than an overloaded and faulty braked steam train coming down a mountain. It’s also worth keeping in mind that hard dumping waves are a sign that there is a sharp drop off which fish treat like a gutter by feeding along the edge of the drop off. It can be a bit harder to feel hits in these waves however.
Pilchards and metal slug lures are ‘bait’ of choice when on the beach. Length of rod is important to gain the most ground in a cast. I can strongly recommend using the Wilson 13’6” Seacoaster or Wilson 12’ Heritage rod after many expeditions bringing happy tailor returns! These can be matched up with either an Alvey 700 model or a Surecatch Advance 570 Reel spooled up with 20lb mono and a meter of heavy mono or wire leader material.
Once kitted up and standing in front of a nice deep gutter, you will need a long cast to the white water breaking at the back of the gutter. As the bait lands and you turn your reel around to the retrieve position, give the bait a short, sharp flick to pull the bait to the surface as though it is gasping for air. This often attracts feeding fish and initiates a strike. Keep the line tight and use a slow and steady retrieve, occasionally flicking the rod backwards to invoke a darting sensation in your bait. When a fish hits, you will feel distinct bite and a movement either towards you with your line suddenly going slack or it will head away from you and your line will sing to you as it zips out. Slackening line requires you to pull the rod upright to make sure the hook is set. Keep the rod high to take the weight of the fish.
River fishing is quite different to beach fishing. Not only are the tailor smaller in size but they are only going to be in the rivers and creeks if they have chased in a school of baitfish. The best way to identify a school of moving baitfish is to watch for sea birds circling as they too follow baitfish as a food source. The baitfish, especially herring, make a slight ripple on the water’s surface as they move with the current and this often resembles ‘boiling’ water. Casting lures or unweighted baits into these schools of bait is a classic tactic for having your bait hit by an unsuspecting tailor.
Unlike normal estuary fishing, where you wait in hope that a fish will smell your bait and have a nibble, lure or bait casting is the proactive way to attract the attention of a tailor. If planning to approach these schools by boat, it is also worth trolling feather jigs with sizable jigheads, metal slugs and even pilchard-like soft plastics. Poppers cast and retrieved as you walk along the bank of the river or slowly trolled behind the boat are also a big success.
Kit yourself out with a Berkley Drop Shot 3-5kg weighted 6’6” rod with an Abu 802 Cardinal reel spooled up with 8lb Fireline joined to a 50cm plus of 30Lb leader. When the fish are in good numbers it pays to use a small length of wire above your hooks and lures. If you are in the market for a new rod for beach or estuary tailor fishing then before the end of this financial year is the best time to buy with many tackle stores readying for stocktaking. Swan Boat Hire is having a clearance on Surf Rods over the next two weeks with up to 20% of one and two piece rods. We can find a beach rod to suit all needs and are especially well practiced in tailor fishing!
Noosa: Tailor and plenty of dart from within Noosa Sound and along the North Shore. A few big whiting in the frying pan. Flathead, bream and whiting from the Munna Point area. Trevally and chopper tailor in Woods Bay.
Maroochydore: Flathead to 74cm and tailor to 72cm from the river mouth. Bream top 800g from Bli Bli over night. Plenty of sand crabs in the lower river. Trevally to 1.2kg from the Motorway Bridge pylons.
Kawana: Chopper tailor from access 6. Gar in the river. Flathead and bream from around McKenzie’s Bridge. Sand crabs along La Balsa Park.
Caloundra: bream and whiting from Currimundi. Queenfish and trevally in Pelican Waters Canal. Sand crabs from the Bar to the Power Boat Club. Chopper tailor in the bar.
Paris and Daniel Connell fish from a Swan Hire Boat in the Maroochy River Cod Hole using fresh prawn for this quality grunter bream last weekend.
Woods bay in the Noosa River is a great spot to target tailor on all forms of lure during the cooler months. Mark Arnall boated this 1.8kg specimen there last week.
Darrin Hamilton of Swan Boat Hire was enjoying a day off from work in the Maroochy River when he stumble across a school of giant trevally around the motorway bridge pylons.
Jake Dale was fishing in the rain from the Maroochy River mouth using mullet for bait when he snagged a 74cm dusky flathead and 72cm tailor for his efforts.