The glory of dory
  |  First Published: August 2001

John dory numbers have been down a bit over the past few seasons but they are still worth a shot provided you concentrate your effort around peak times.

As with most types of fishing you can increase your ‘return for effort’ ratio by identifying the times and locations that best fit in with the target species’ feeding preferences.

In other words, in a 24-hour period, there are probably six peak feeding hours.

Don’t assume that long sessions equate to more fish. The classic example is jewie fishers who do all-nighters, only to find that a pattern emerges that shows they caught all their fish in the same two-hour period around the tide turns.

Reality is they could have probably just limited their trip to three hours instead of a gruelling nine-hour session. However, never criticise a man for doing long, unproductive fishing trips until you have met his missus!

There are several species of dory worldwide but the most commonly caught by recreational anglers is the john dory and now is the time to catch them.

Dory are primarily an offshore species but between about May and September they move into the bays and harbours to breed.

They prefer deep, clear water and places like Sydney Harbour and Pittwater are ideal. Areas of broken reef on a sand base and sand bottom around marinas and jetties will attract baitfish and, in turn, dory.

They prefer small, reef-dwelling species like mado, sweep, yakkas and cockneys.

You can catch dory right through the day but, as with all species, early morning and late afternoon are the peak periods.

Like jewies, dory seem to feed best around the tide changes. The last of the run up and the first hour of the run out is best but the turn of the low tide can also fish well, particularly in the deep water spots.

The periods around the new and full moon are the best because they coincide with the early morning and late arvo high tides.

The rig I use consists of a rod loaded with about 10kg line definitely overkill for dory but when you’re fishing with live baits in deep water with a high concentration of baitfish, jewies and kingies are always on the cards.

I use a 6/0 Mustad Big Red hook on one meter of 15kg trace that is connected to the main line with a swivel, which acts as a stopper for a medium-sized bean sinker on the main line.

Lower the rig to the bottom without the bait and set the depth by waiting until the sinker hits the bottom, then raise it about 2m. If you try this with a strongly swimming livie it will be very difficult to determine exactly what depth you are at.

Once you have set the depth, then handline the line back in, bait up and send it on its way.

On a good day you might get half a dozen dory but realistically two is about average. They are pretty poor fighting fish but I would definitely recommend using a landing net because they have very fragile mouths and the last thing you want is to see the hook part company with your catch.

Dory have superb white flesh that lends itself to any style of cooking and providing they are iced down as soon as they are caught, you won’t find a better eating fish inshore.


Morwong, normally an offshore species, move into the Harbour and take up residence around the deep reefs and headlands. They usually run to about 1.5 kg and are caught almost exclusively on squid and prawns.

The best rig I have found is a light, two-dropper, paternoster rig much like you would use when fishing for estuary leatherjackets. In fact, I found most of my harbour mowie spots while fishing for jackets.

No 6 Baitholder hooks baited with small pieces of bait fished on the bottom should do the trick. Mowies are very strong fighters so you will need to go easy and exercise some patience on the light rigs. Try Quarantine Point and Dobroyd Reef.

The upper reaches of the rivers and estuaries will have well and truly have shut down by now with the exception of hairtail in the upper reaches of Cowan and Coal and Candle creeks.

The hairies will respond well to live baits or pillies on ganged hooks but go absolutely nuts for a live common squid, which are abundant in the area. Hairtail will be present right through to October.

Down on the lower reaches tailor, trevally, jackets, salmon and dory will be the mainstay.

Tailor have been schooled up wide off Middle Head on Sydney Harbour for months now and are taking trolled deep-diving minnows or pilchards fished in a chopped pilchard berley trial.

At this time of year berley is a great advantage, especially when it comes to trevally. Unweighted peeled prawns drifted down the trail will bring them unstuck.

Trevors are a great stand-by through the cooler months when things can be a bit quiet and if they are processed properly, can make a pretty decent feed.

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