No matter who you are, all West Australian fishers have a soft spot for the mighty tailor. They epitomise the image of a deadly hunter with their razor sharp teeth and tendency to bite the tails off baitfish and leave them crippled while they charge through the others.
There is probably no more popular fish in WA but most tailor fishers do it the hard way. By changing your approach, you can catch bigger and better fish more easily.
The biggest problem facing Tailor in Western Australia is the large numbers of juvenile fish between 20 and 30 centimetres taken by Perth and south coast anglers each year.
Our river systems are important nurseries for the young fish but, unfortunately, they make it too convenient for weekend anglers to go to the local jetty and catch a large number of fish which are only too keen to feed in a frenzy – to their detriment.
The spawning size of Tailor is around 30 centimetres and fish spawn around Perth’s outer reefs and Rottnest Island off the Metropolitan coast. The Abrolhos Islands, off the coast of Geraldton, are another important breeding ground and juveniles that find their way into the Swan River may have been carried in the Leeuwin Current all of the way from there to Perth.
Young move into the estuaries at the start of summer and grow rapidly over this period of time. As the temperature cools, fish then move back into the ocean on a pre-spawning migration. At this time they are between two and three years old.
At this size they form large and voracious schools that, once set into a feeding frenzy off the beach or groyne, can suffer heavy casualties as anglers take many more fish than the and limit of 8. Because of this disgraceful practice, Tailor stocks are at an all time low so please adhere to the bag limit or take only what you need because Tailor cannot be frozen.
Adult Tailor can live to 15 years of age and tend to congregate in the Shark Bay area as they reach the end of their lives. Fish around Dirk Hartog Island can exceed 20 pounds and are regularly caught around 5kg which you’ll see on our TV series this year.
How To Catch Them
Instead of lining up along the beaches to catch barely edible sized Tailor, why not seek much larger and more impressive adult fish? Unlike the smaller fish, the kilo and a half models tend to live around shallow reef areas covered in foamy surf.
These fish can be caught using metal slice lures or surface poppers which can provide scintillating action. Let’s look at some different scenarios and how you can target better Tailor to help save the species from over fishing of juveniles.
Try casting unweighted mulies into the wash on a reef and allow it to slowly sink. We recommend that you use a gang of hooks (5 x 5/0 Youvela chemical hooks) for ocean baitcasting as this usually results in more fish activity and by using garfish baits you’ll get more interest from the larger fish.
Once you have enough fish to eat that day, we recommend switching to a different gang with crushed barbs and the release of all subsequent fish as they do not freeze at all.
Tailor may not bite until 9am or later offshore and will bite throughout the day at times. Poppers and minnows are also worth a try but, as the sun rises, they lose their effectiveness because tailor will then move deeper into the water table for cover.
We have also caught many tailor on fly. A deceiver in yellow and white has been the best so far but a shooting head is recommended for your flyline as you are almost always casting into the wind. Your strip should be brief tugs followed by pauses to let the fly sink.
Tailor will sit in the surf wash so you may need to cast far enough to get in behind the school. If you must use bait, an unweighted mulie or garfish is still our preferred method but you are much better off with a metal slug like a Raider or Javelin. You then have no trouble with seagulls eating your mulies and can reload and cast in a fraction of the time you can with a bait.
When bait fishing, a stiff westerly may require the services of a float with a long trace or a sinker rig. A sinker also has the added benefit of picking up the odd Mulloway mooching on the bottom. As usual, look for spots with good gutters (or a visible rip) and other anglers casting mulies usually is a good sign that you are on the right track. If there is a sandy point, try walking parallel to the break and casting just behind the foam for good results.
When working out where to place your bait in the surf, remember that tailor will sit in the clean water not affected by a rip. It will usually be alongside a section of stirred up water and putting the bait a few metres to the side of the churn is your best bet. Mulloway, however, are more likely found in the dirty water.
Once again, a gang of hooks as we mentioned earlier works well but, if the fish are less than a kilo, you may want to revert to a 2/0 size. Metal lures are easier to use if the fish are biting well but mulies usually produce more fish, especially as it gets darker. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times but, as in the deeper ocean, they can bite at any time.
If you want serious tailor from the shore, forget the beaches find a rocky shoreline to zoom metal or poppers lures over in the early morning. This really works and we’ve caught 3kg fish this way close to Perth when, further up the beach, the mulie casters are getting them at less than 1kg. Be prepared for bust offs however!
Most river tailor are juveniles and a small gang with blue bait or whitebait will usually result in better hookups. Metal lures are very effective on juveniles and any crankbait will work during daylight hours. Bait is best at night, however when tailor are attracted to the fish hanging around lights and may sit just in the shadows so try casting behind the light as well. Remember to release all fish under 25cm (we feel that you shouldn’t bother taking fish under 30cm) and small tailor have no meat and don’t fight very well so you might as well catch herring than take small ones.
Chopper tailor schools work areas around Claremont on summer afternoons when the seabreeze comes in and you can spend a very enjoyable afternoon walking along the shore casting metal lures on light tackle.
Bigger tailor can lurk in deeper holes around Mosmans and a good echo sounder will be of great benefit. Try mooring next to a good, solid drop off and sending down a lightly weighted mulie. Deadly, but watch out for rays and sharks which live in the river all year round.
Having now told you how to catch these small fish, do yourself and the whole population a favour by not keeping them. You cant get any serious meat off them and they dont fight as well as a herring. Leave them to spawn and enjoy the tailor fishing for years to come.
Rocks and Groynes:
As in beach fishing, you can pick up tailor all day but it’s more than likely you’ll see them in the morning and late afternoon all the way to late at night. They tend to travel along groynes like North and South mole in smaller schools working up and down then heading back to the beaches before making similar raids at spasmodic intervals.
An unweighted mulie or garfish is, once again, our recommendation for more hookups but lures work well if the school is there. In our experience, most of the good tailor action from the rocks comes on a full moon after sunset when fish can bight all night.
Remember that the bag limit is only 8 per person per day but two of the big 2kg plus tailor is a huge meal for any family. Please remember that the stocks are only just starting to improve again so do the right thing.
How To Rig Your Line To Catch Them