What’s the Story, Morning Dory?
  |  First Published: June 2010

July is right in the middle of the dory season so I’ve dedicated this month’s column to the tips and techniques required to snare a few of these freaks of the deep.

Dory are a rare catch, and when they are caught it’s usually by accident. They are not often a target species but occasionally one will be fooled by a pilchard aimed at tailor or even a cut bait aimed at bream or trevally.

A fair percentage of them are also caught after they inhale an undersized bream or reddie that have been hooked on a bream line. Usually the angler will assume that the dory has taken the bream bait but those who dispatch and dress their dory immediately will discover the truth of the matter. As most bream anglers fish with 3-4 lines, it is easy to overlook a small hooked reddie that could be left floating at the end of the rod, in which time a dory will be attracted by the berley trail and baitfish and quickly scoff the poor little reddie.

All of this has lead to the belief that dory are an uncommon species, but they are actually quite common from May through to September. So there’s really no reason you shouldn’t average at least one every time you go out. Just like jewies or whiting they are common enough to make them a feasible proposition rather than a random by-catch, as long as they are targeted properly.

In Sydney Harbour they can be found in deep water. They spend most of their time off shore in very deep water so when they come inshore they feel more comfortable in the relatively deeper locations. Twenty feet is a good starting point.

Dory aren’t the most energetic fish in the sea so strong currents are unfavourable. The still deep bays and the eddies of the lower harbour, middle harbour and particularly north harbour are good spots to start looking. They also like clear saline water so the upper reaches are usually unsuitable, except possibly, after long periods without rain. A classic example of this is the main body of the Hawkesbury is hopeless for dory but the deep clear tributaries of Cowan and Pittwater are quite productive.

With that whopping great eye, dory could possibly be nocturnal. They love a bit of shade and low light conditions of early morning and late afternoon. Jetties and moorings are a big favourite, as well as under water structure.

As with most species, the turns of the tide seem to spark a feed with high being the favourite and low not far behind. The new and the full moon are good times although I’m not sure whether this is related to the moon phase or the fact that the turn of the highs around these phases occur early morning and late afternoon.

A rapidly falling and a stable high barometer are also peak times. The biggest problem you will face is timing your day off with all the above mentioned factors.

Baits must be alive. Their natural prey are the slower reef dwelling species, like mado and sweep. However, if you have to use live yellowtail or slimies, not really recommended, then make sure you trim the tails to slow them down to dory speed.

How you fish these baits is just as important as where and when you fish them. Dory will pick a bait up off the bottom but they much prefer it if it is suspended a meter or so above the bottom. I find it much easier to set the depth without the bait on the hook. Once you have set the depth put the rod in the holder, pull the line up by hand and place the live bait on the hook. Although the bait will swim frantically for a few minutes, when it finally settles down you will know that it will be at the right depth. You cannot set the depth accurately with a frantic bait charging all over the place.

The rig is very basic; a 40g bean sinker is placed free running on the main line stopped by a swivel. Then a 10kg trace, about a meter long, is finished off with a 4\0 to 6\0 Mustad Big Red chemically sharpened hook.

You can get away with ordinary tackle with dory as they really aren’t the toughest fighter but keep in mind that whenever you have a live bait out you risk hooking a kingie or jewfish.

Finally, shore-based fishos are well in with a shot at dory. Jetties provide shade and swarms of baitfish and fishing straight off the rod tip amongst the pylons or a little further out under a bobby cork often produces more dory than the boats fishing out wider.


Dory are not often a target species but occasionally one will be fooled by a pilchard aimed at tailor or even a cut bait aimed at bream or trevally.


Dory love a bit of shade and low light conditions of early morning and late afternoon.


It is really important to use live baits. Their natural prey are the slower reef dwelling species.

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