AKA: Pomatomus saltatrix
Introduction: Tailor are exceptional sportsfish and even better eating if bled and chilled immediately. They are seasonal, make spectacular runs, often aerobatically leaping into the air in an attempt to shake hooks, and have a set of seriously razor sharp teeth, destroying baitfish and lures alike.
Mostly the target of rock wall and beach fishermen, they do appear in estuaries and frequent inshore zones and bite thick and fast when they school up.
Habit: Tailor are migratory, chasing warmer water in winter and colder water in summer, fish spawning in Spring. Tailor recruit to the estuaries at around 4cm, schooling for safety. They leave the eastruies at around 40cm (two years of age), heading out to the ocean. They are sexually mature in the first two years and may produce a million eggs per spawn. Eggs are spilt into the ocean to mingle with the male's milt.
Finding them: Tailor can be found around the washes of headlands and around surf beaches. Casting and retrieving to surf washes in whitewash zones is highly effective, the fish using the cover of the wash for protection (so do the baitfish they target). In the estuary, they are almost impossible to target, turning up where you least expect them biting through finesse bream presentations often. Trolling the estuary and waiting for a strike is, in my books, highly reccomended for prospecting for a school. Once you have trolled up one, target the same spot with cast and retrieve and many more may follow.
Catching them: Tailor are excellent light tackle sports fish that will hit just about any lure thrown at them, they are certainly far from fussy feeders, famous for their razor sharp teeth. They are known to “chop” through schools of baitfish killing way more fish than they require for food. They can be targeted on soft plastics, hard bodies, blades, metal slices and surface poppers. A faster retrieve is often the key. Tailor like to chase. Tailor chase baitfish. Locating the them is the key. If working offshore, look for birds feeding on the bait pushed to the surface by schooling tailor. If working the estuary, look for bait disturbance near dropoffs and along bank edges or bait holding structure. Heavier leaders are advised using plastics.
Kayak Specific considerations: Tailor are acrobatic and aerobatic fish prone to great hook shedding head shakes. If the teeth don't shred your leader, they will certainly maim your fingers taking out a treble. They will bite you given a chance. They also never seem to give up, even 30cm choppers will go like the energizer bunny between your legs in the footwell so beware incidental lure hookups around the legs. The razor sharp teeth leave bite wounds that just wont stop bleeding. When hooked on a hardbody and hauled aboard, be careful of both teeth and hooks between your legs. These fish seriously do not stop until the last gasp and can inflict a serious injury. Best netted or gaffed and contolled quickly.
Catch Management: Bleed immediately upon capture, chill and eat as soon as possible. Do not freeze.
Cleaning: Very easy to fillet, as for bream. Very fine scales come off very easily, well defined skeletal system to guide the knife. Butterfly to smoke.
Cooking: Tailor are a mildly oily fish well suited to smoking, barbecueing, and panfrying. They are a flavoursome fish best left uncomplicated, but can handle a range of Asian and Middle Eastern flavours without overpowering their flavour.
Conservation: It is thought that recreational catch is to be approximately five times higher than that of commercial fishermen. As with many species, both commercial and recreational catches are historically lower now due to fewer baitfishlike mullet due to loss of habitat and overfishing. Catch and release larger specimens to ensure future fish stocks.
By Jay Penfold, backwateryakfishing.com