Tailor keep ’em guessing
  |  First Published: August 2003

There are still plenty of large tailor being caught around the bottom end of the Harbour, which is most strange for this time of year.

Most anglers recognise February-March as the best time for mature tailor off Sydney, as they pass by on their northern migration to spawn off Fraser Island in August-September. Maybe the late seasonal change this year to colder water delayed their travels or, the possibility that was espoused some years ago, that there is more than one spawning ground along the eastern coast. Perhaps there is one ground wide off Sydney or further south where they will spawn at the same time of year and forgo their annual migration north.

Researchers from Macquarie University did some studies around 10 years ago to determine whether there were two separate sub-families of tailor along the east coast. The project was triggered when fully-roed tailor were caught on the Far South Coast. Their research pretty well proved that they are all the one genetic family but the scientists did not discount the possibility of more than one spawning area. I tend to favour the first scenario – that the tailor will make a late run to Fraser Island this year. Fish up to 2kg have been caught around Grotto Point, Middle Head and around the Spit Bridge at night.

From now to early Spring, anglers drifting for flathead should find a lot of flounder turning up in their catches. If you are getting bites but not hooking up, then a change to smaller hooks may help because flounder have relatively small mouths compared with a flathead’s.

When fishing for flathead I prefer to use a gang of three No 2 hooks. They are generally a suitable size to rig a whitebait or frogmouth pilchard. They’re a bit small for a whole WA pilchard so I generally take a fillet off the pilchard and use the fillet with the backbone still attached as the bait.

With this rig I believe I get a better hook-up rate on the flathead, plus a higher incidental rate of other species. North Harbour should be worth a visit and the area off Chinamans Beach in Middle Harbour or Chowder Bay are also good options offering some protection from the August westerly winds.

The Sow and Pigs Reef has trevally on offer with fish to a kilo now fairly common, although there are still plenty of small fish. Night or early morning is best and you have to work the tides – fishing the northern edge of the reef on the run-in tide and the southern side on the run out. Anchor out from the reef and cast back to the rocks and kelp beds.

Salmon and bonito can be spun and trolled around North Head and South Head. The schools of tiny baitfish haven’t arrived yet, so the fish are taking relatively large lures. I saw a couple of 2kg salmon landed by an angler fishing from the Balmoral Beach jetty the other morning. He was drifting out live yellowtail baits under bobby corks and reckons he has regular success with this method from the jetty.

Hawkesbury River

As predicted last month, there has been a late run of hairtail in Cowan Creek, with some large fish being caught at the end of Akuna Bay and in some of the smaller bays off Smiths Creek. You have to have some patience, though, as in many instances the fish don’t come on the bite until late at night. In fact, one of the better catches reported was taken after 3am. Given these cold nights, you need a fair incentive – or a boat with a cosy cabin – to stay out on the water that long.

Leatherjackets have been a good option for daytime anglers. Bag-limit catches have been reported from around the shoreline at Cottage Point and most of the fish have been good keeper size. Many anglers chasing hairtail have been adopting the practice of starting fishing about midday and working around the rocky shoreline for yellowtail for bait, with the bonus of also scoring a reasonable number of leatherjackets. Then they settle in around sunset to fish into the night for hairtail using live yellowtail or fresh yellowtail fillets for bait.

The bream seem to be scattered throughout the river system but most of the fish have been coming from the lower reaches. The fish should now be returning from the coastal waters after spawning and from reports indicate this appears to be the case, as many of the fish are in poor condition with little or no residual fat

Pittwater has been turning up some john dory. The deep water in the Basin and around the wharves on the southern side of Coasters Retreat has produced a number of fish.

Botany Bay

Trevally are the predominant species in the bay with tailor a close second. The area from Bare Island to Henrys Head has been productive for both species and if you are on the other side of the bay, then Watts Reef or the hot water outlet are also fishing well. There have also been quite a few keeper-size snapper coming from both sides of Botany Heads.

The Cooks River has been turning on some good catches of blackfish from along the breakwalls and also in Muddy Creek. The runway wall has also been fishing well during the run-in tide with cabbage and weed baits producing fish. The Georges River has been a bit slow for the float-fishos and the blackfish they are catching are mainly undersize.

Woolooware Bay is the hot spot for bream. Some quality fish can be caught on the high tide over the oyster racks. Overcast days, with less light penetrating the water, will give you optimum conditions for bait-fishing or tossing lures.



Flathead are always a welcome catch. They can be found just about everywhere, will take any offerings, including lures, and they certainly go well on the table.


An estuary kingfish, successfully boated on gear more suited to catching bream and whiting, will bring a smile to any angler’s face.

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