Sci: Pomatomus saltatrix

Common Names: This world-wide saltwater fish has different names in various countries. In the United States it is called bluefish, while in South Africa, it is known as elf. Here in Australia, anglers usually call it tailor (sometimes incorrectly spelt "tailer" or "taylor"), or use its popular nicknames of "chopper" or "green back". In Victoria, tailor are sometimes called skipjack or "skippies".

Description: The tailor is a mid-sized predatory fish with a relatively elongated body, forked tail and a large mouth lined with fairly small, but very sharp, teeth. Typical colouration is green to greenish-blue, grey or gun-metal on the back, silver on the flanks and silvery-white on the belly. Fish caught well offshore tend to have distinctive steely-blue backs. The fins are variable in colour but the tail is almost always darker, usually with a black trailing edge.

Size: The majority of tailor caught in Australia weigh from 0.2 to 2.5 kg. Smaller schools of big fish, in the 2 to 5 kg range, are regularly encountered in some areas, while outsize tailor, which are often caught further offshore than their smaller brethren, may weigh as much as 6 or 8 kg. The very largest specimens taken in Australia have topped the 10 kg mark.

Distribution: In Australia, tailor are found in temperate and sub-tropical waters, being most prolific on the east coast between Wilsons Promontory and Fraser Island, and in the west from Albany to Carnarvon. They also occur sporadically along the southern seaboard, including South Australia, but are very rare in Tasmania. They make use of a wide range of habitats; from the upper, almost fresh-water reaches of estuaries, through bays, harbours and inlets to inshore grounds, shallow reefs, islands and on out to the edge of the continental shelf - and perhaps even beyond it.

Fishing Techniques: Tailor are fished for in a variety of ways. One of the most productive techniques is to cast and slowly retrieve un-weighted or very lightly-weighted pilchards and garfish rigged on ganged or linked hooks. These gang-hooked rigs can also be used under bobby cork floats, or with heavier sinkers when casting distance is required, particularly on the beach. Fish flesh strips and small live baits will also attract tailor, and they are one of the commonest lure-caught fish in our waters. They strike at a wide range of cast-and-retrieved or trolled chrome slices, spoons, lead slugs, minnows, jigs and flies. A light wire trace is helpful to resist the tailor's razor sharp teeth, although this fish rarely bites-off ganged hooks or large, hard-bodied lures.

Eating Qualities: Fresh tailor are very tasty, although their soft, slightly grey meat bruises very easily and does not respond particularly well to freezing. Tailor flesh is mildly flavoured, flaky and somewhat oily. It is ideally suited to smoking, particularly cold smoking or smoke curing. All tailor destined for the table should be killed and bled as soon as they are landed, and cleaned within an hour or two of capture. Avoid dropping the fish, stacking them on top of each other, and allowing rigor mortis to set in while they are bent or curled up.

By Steve Starling

Saltwater Species:

Albacore Barracouta
Barracuda Barramundi
Blue Groper Boniti
Bream Coral Trout
Drummer Flathead
Garfish John Dory
Kingfish Leatherjacket
Luderick Mako Shark
Mangrove Lack Marlin
Mullet Mulloway
Queenfish Sailfish
Salmon Shark
Skipjack Tuna Snapper
Snook Tailor