Tailor Time!

It’s that time of year……….Tailor Time.  Chris Raimondi talks tailor in S.E. Queensland.

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There are a stack of annual events in the South East Queensland winter that are not to be missed. State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium, the Stradbroke Handicap horse race at Eagle Farm and Splendour in the Grass at Byron Bay (well its practically still South East Qld!) to name a few. However there is another annual event which brings thousands of anglers to SEQ, the Tailor run! Each winter, hundreds of thousands of Tailor make their way up the east coast of Australia to spawn. It’s a ritual that is entrenched in their existence and one that anglers from around the country are extremely appreciative of.

Tailor are a great fish, they fight hard and feed extremely aggressively. They can be caught in the rivers and estuaries or from surf beaches and sometimes even show up offshore. Their eating quality is reasonable, especially when prepared fresh and they’re an extremely good offshore bait as well. As frenetic feeders, Tailor can be targeted with bait or a number of different lure techniques which we will look into shortly. First though, it’s important to understand their winter behaviour and movements.

Like most species of fish, Tailor require certain conditions and a specific water temperature to spawn. Each winter, a huge number of Tailor from the NSW and South East QLD bay and estuarine systems exit and make their way up the coast to the headlands of Moreton, Stradbroke and Fraser Islands. Their journey typically begins in June and July with a number of fish stopping along the way, particularly around the headlands and surf beaches of Northern NSW and the Gold Coast. Early in the winter, these areas are prime targets for Tailor fisherman.

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As August and September rolls around, huge numbers of Tailor congregate at Fraser Island; the Tailor capital of the world! Throughout early August, the southern end and middle part of the island is the best place to target fish on the move but as the weeks roll past, the northern area of the island around Indian Head and Waddy Point becomes the go zone. This area is so important for the spawning and regeneration of Tailor stocks that from midday on August 1 until September 30 the area from 400m north of Waddy Point to 400m south of Indian Head becomes closed to all fishing. That area aside, there are still plenty of locations on the island that hold huge numbers of Tailor throughout the late winter months.

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One of the great things about Tailor is their frenetic feeding habits. When they’re in the mood, they’ll eat just about anything. This makes them a great target for lure anglers. The traditional way of catching Tailor has been to use a pilchard or flesh bait rigged on three ganged hooks. While still an extremely effective and popular method for chasing Tailor, there are a number of more active ways to chase these fish. Metal lures or slugs is a great technique. Anything from 30 grams to 85 grams can be really effective with heavier metals perfect for throwing long casts into deep surf gutters. The retrieve is simple, bring your lure back as fast as you can. High speed retrieve spin reels are really effective and will impart significant speed on the lure. Tailor will smash it on the run and a quality rear treble or better still, a free swinging single is normally all you need for a solid hook up.

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Surface poppers are also a great way to target Tailor and you’ll often grab the attention of bigger fish using this technique. Halco Roosta Pops are a great option, but any popper in that 65mm to 110mm range can be effective. The retrieve is really dependant on how the fish are feeding on a particular day. Tailor love speed so often a burn across the top is really effective but on the other hand a slower, blooping technique will also work. Like poppers, Tailor also jump all over larger surface stick baits. Retrieve them at speed and if you can, impart an erratic action on them by sweeping your rod tip.

In the rivers, bays and estuaries, Tailor tend to sit a little deeper in the water column, herding up bait around structure and smashing it at will. If you can find schools of bait, soft plastics and vibes work extremely well. Cast them into an area where there is plenty of bait and work them at a moderate speed, hopping them off the bottom. If you see fish feeding on the surface, a plastic or vibe easily adapts into a high speed retrieve lure so cast in front of the feeding frenzy and quickly retrieve your lure back to the boat. Most times you won’t get it back without a Tailor hanging from the end of it.

Areas to target Tailor can be relatively easy to find. If you’re at Fraser Island in August or September, simply find a spot amongst the blokes fishing shoulder to shoulder along the beach. Chances are they’ll be fishing a deep gutter which is typically an area with a bank sandbank and then a steep drop of deep water with an entrance to the open ocean at one end (or at both ends). The back sandbank protects the gutter from crashing waves so the deeper area can often be relatively calm.

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Timing the tide is ultra-important when you’re fishing a surf gutter for Tailor. Some gutters are better at high tide, and some at low. For instance, a high tide gutter needs time to allow the water, and fish, to enter. When there is enough water streaming in, the fish will follow as long as they feel safe. A high tide which falls at a period of low light in the morning or afternoon is perfect. Tailor will also typically feed at night as they can more easily evade predators like sharks, mulloway and mackerel under the cover of darkness. In simple terms, the key to a good surf gutter for Tailor fishing is deep water, a back sandbank and an opening to deeper ocean water.

If you haven’t experienced Fraser Island, now is the time to do so with the annual Tailor season well and truly underway. If you’re too far away from Fraser but plan on chasing a few down the East coast, have a crack at your local surf beach, headland or the mouth of any bay or estuary in your vicinity. Tailor are great fun to catch when they’re in the mood. Catch ya.

Chris Raimondi

About Chris Raimondi

Chris Raimondi is a Brisbane based angler who's passion for fishing began in the estuaries chasing bream and whiting with his dad and grandfather. These days, Chris spends the majority of his spare time fishing offshore of South East Queensland anywhere from Cape Moreton to 1770 chasing snapper, red emperor and other reef species. Despite getting offshore at any opportunity, Chris also loves nothing more than chasing snapper on plastics in the shallows of Moreton Bay and prides himself on being an 'all rounder'.

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