Tailor is a world-wide saltwater fish known in the United States as bluefish and this is one of the two I caught at the bay late yesterday. It 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.
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 way to catch tailor varies but 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.
Some say that 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.
The way I cook tailor is to scale and clean the fish and then throw it on the B-B-Q. I turn the heat up high and turn the fish once or twice. I leave it on the B-B-Q for an hour or so whilst I go to the kitchen and get a beer and a nice cut of new york strip or rib eye out of the fridge.
Grill the steak for about five minutes on each side. Whilst you are doing that you can prepare a green salad and have another beer. Steak tastes best slightly rare or medium and not overcooked. When overcooked, it tends to get tough. After enjoying the meal I return to the B-B-Q examine the peice of charcoaled fish and then throw it in the bin. The reason for using this method of cooking tailor is that I don’t like eating mildly flavoured, flaky and somewhat oily fish. I prefer steak.
Fish facts and information based on research by Steve Starling. Cooking skills and tips provided by Sean