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ARTICLE - How to catch TAILOR

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How to catch Tailor by @Ken A

Fishing for Tailor in the Hawkesbury


Tailor are a common fish in the system during the summer months & into autumn. They take baits & lures readily & put up a good fight. As far as eating goes I enjoy a fresh caught tailor either grilled or on the barbecue. They are one of the best fish around for smoking as well. Unfortunately they do not freeze well at all so what I can't eat fresh it is best to release. The average fish taken in Pittwater or the Hawkesbury would probably be 1/2 a kilo but schools of larger fish can turn up anytime. Bigger fish are more common offshore but in this article I will just cover fishing inside for them & mainly lure fishing.

Tailor Locations

Tailor move around a bit & can turn up just about anywhere. You need to be observant & look for flocks of birds diving to the surface & hovering over splashes. These birds are feeding on the scraps left over by feeding tailor. Some good areas to start looking are between the Royal Motor Yacht Club & the end of the no wash zone at the southern end of Pittwater. In the entrance to Careel Bay & around West Head plus over the other side around the western tip of Barrenjoey around to the bombora. In Cowan Creek the area around Cottage point & the entrance to Smiths Creek generally produces & back further in Broken Bay the areas around Juno PointÊ & Flint & Steel can fire as well. You just need to be alert & look for schools these areas are where I generally start searching. If you like to fish offshore look around the area behind the surf at Palm beach or around Whale Beach.

Tailor Tackle

The tackle needed for catching tailor needs to be good quality gear & well maintained. While a tailor is unlikely to stretch the capacity of your tackle you are likely to hook other fish such as kingfish, bonito, salmon & maybe a mackerel tuna while casting at tailor. Any good quality bait casting or threadline tackle on a 1.7 to 2 meter rod spooled with 3kg line will be fine. A light saltwater fly outfit can be a lot of fun with tailor I prefer a 6 or 8 weight. A word of warning on fly though is spool up with a cheap fly line as casting long distance is not needed & tailor will often chop at a floating fly line & the razor teeth will ruin a fly line. A variety of metal lures in theÊ 5 gram to 20 gram range is needed I prefer the baitfish type lures but chromed metal slices work fine. A couple of minnow type lures for trolling & your set. As far as fly tackle goes tailor will take any of the baitfish imitations but I normally just tie some simple tailor flies made only of flash material such as Sparkle Flash bound to a 1/0 hook. Other flies such as the Surf candy type are fine in sizes 2 through to 2/0 but be warned Tailor make short work of flies so I would not be using anything fancy or expensive. A couple examples of lures & flies are at the bottom of this page. I always have a couple of surface poppers on hand for fun as well.

Tailor Rigs

Simple rigs are the go with tailor & where possible avoid the use of swivels for connecting traces as when a Tailor is hooked the other fish in the school will often bite at the swivels & cut the line. Black swivels will reduce this happening but I prefer to use none at all. For lure casting I use a double of approximately 2 meters in lengthÊ tied with a Bimini Twist then this is connected to a leader of around 1/2 a meter in length which is made of 7 or 8 kilo monofilament using the Albright knot. For a diagram of this knot there is a link at the bottom of the page. I then use a short length of 5 to 7 kg breaking strain nylon coated wire of approximately 10 to 12 cm in length tied to this using again the Albright knot this is turn is fastened to a small clip or snap swivel by threading the wire through the swivel or clip then twisting the wire about 6 times back around itself then gently melting the plastic coating by heating it with a match. This short wire is not really a must with lures but it can save a few lures especially when the larger fish are about, I would strongly recommend using a short length of wire on fly tackle as they really inhale them. if you prefer bait just substitute a set of ganged hooks for the lure. Pilchards are a great bait & easy to buy but garfish will work fine as well as tend to last a lot longer on the hooks than a pilchard. I release nearly all of my tailor so I swap trebles on lures for a single barb less hook & on fly I use barb less as well.


I prefer a rising tide early in the morning for lure fishing for tailor in these areas but the evenings are fine as well. They can appear at any time of the day if they find a school of bait to feed on. I generally cruise around looking for splashing on the surface or birds diving on schools of feeding tailor. Finding them is harder than catching them. WhenÊ a school is located I just cast & retrieve my lure or fly along the edges of the school. Tailor generally when feeding on the surface will not be moving around too fast at all unlike some of the other surface fish in the area. You will find Tailor strike readily at most lures but if you do not get a strike go down in lure size as they may be feeding on small sized baitfish. When using a pilchard or garfish cast & retrieve alongÊ the edge of the school same as with a lure. When you are hooked up tailor will normally make a few short runs & a few jumps & perform pretty well for their size. When you get them to the boat if you intend to keep them just swing them in & break the neck to bleed the fish. This makes unhooking a bit easier too. When the fish has finished bleeding put them somewhere cool preferably on ice as the flesh will go soft quickly if left exposed to the sun. I you intend to release your fish I recommend not handling the fish at all as the fine scales rub off very easily & the loss of these will damage the fish. I normally just lead the fish to the boat & lift him out on the trace & hold him above the water then grip the hook with pliers & flip them off into the water. Any that are hooked deeply I will keep for eating. All in all Tailor are a fun fish & fresh they are a respectable eating fish as well. They often provide a bit of fun when the larger surface fish are not available. If you are really desperate to catch a few & have no success in finding the fish during the day on a rising tide at night during late summer & autumn they are can be found in the area near the red navigation light of Palm Beach wharf. Put some chopped up pilchards through your berley pot & get ready for some fast tailor action.


Tailor are normally a very easy fish to catch when a school is located. Because of this they are often slaughtered in large numbers. Please check size & bag limits at the link to NSW Fisheries below & only take what you can eat fresh as they do not freeze well at all. Another important point is DO NOT wash tailor in fresh water it sends the flesh soft & pulpy.

Lures & Flies for Tailor





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