Giving some mussel muscle to the Peel-Harvey inlet

Thanks to jetty owners throughout the Peel-Harvey estuary near Mandurah, shellfish numbers have taken a boost and are supporting native fish populations in the region.  

The reason behind the growing mussel abundance comes down to a clever initiative called ‘Pimp My Jetty’ – created by Ozfish, and supported by Recfishwest, which involved jetty owners agreeing to host a hanging shellfish habitat such as natural ropes under their private jetty.  

The fibres of the rope provide an ideal surface for mussel larvae and for maturing mussels to grow on. As more mussels create homes on the new hanging habitats, it leads to more mussel spat in the estuary and helps to revive the once thriving shellfish population. 

The mussels also improve water quality through filtering it and provide an increased high-quality food source and better habitats that supports black bream and other native fish species such as tailor, herring, whiting, flathead and others.  

More mussels mean more fish, which is a win-win for recreational fishers and the water quality of the estuary. 

The naturally occurring fibres from ropes (pictured left) create an ideal surface for mussels to latch on to, leading to an abundance of shellfish (pictured right) and fish species over time.

Steve Pursell, OzFish Program Manager for WA, believes the success of this year’s project underlines what can be achieved when recreational fishers, local communities, and scientists work together.  

“We have been pleased by the numbers of private jetty owners who came forward to be involved – it shows they understand the importance of healthy habitats in our waterways,” he said.  

“Not only do mussels play a key role in filtering and improving the water quality, research shows they once made up 64 per cent of black bream’s diet in the area but that is now as low as 19 per cent. By restoring habitat, our volunteers are helping to create better fishing,” said Steve.  

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell said, “Estuaries such as those located in the Peel-Harvey region are crucial for providing easy access to great fishing spots and as nursery habitats for key recreational species.  

“Thanks to initiatives like Pimp My Jetty, we not only help restore a valuable food source for fish like black bream, tailor and others, but it also helps improve the water quality and directly benefits the fishing action in the area. 

“The Mandurah estuary is an incredibly unique angling destination for crabbing and yellowfin whiting fishing on surface lures and poppers during the warmer months. Fishers can feel comfortable knowing these kinds of projects will improve these crucial fishing experiences over time.  

“Thanks to all the friendly Peel-Harvey locals who own a jetty and their collaboration with Ozfish, they are helping breathe more life into our estuaries.”  

The Harvey-Peel Estuary in Mandurah has been a much-loved fishing spot for generations and the Pimp My Jetty initiative from Ozfish will help anglers such as Harry Tropiano (pictured right) catch more black bream and other species.

The Pimp My Jetty project is funded by Recfishwest, Navico, the Western Australian Government’s Royalties for Regions program, and BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing. It is supported by Peel Harvey Catchment Council. 

Find out more about Ozfish’s ‘Pimp My Jetty’ initiative here 

Scott’s Species – tailor, tough predators with razor teeth

From beaches, to rivers and estuaries, tailor are a special species that many WA fishers value dearly, especially for those based along the State’s west coast. In this week’s edition of Scott’s Species, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan writes about the favourite near-shore species with razor teeth.

Species: Tailor, Pomatomus saltatrix

Eating: 3 stars

ID: Blue-green back and silver underside, the first of their two dorsal fins has many small spines, and strong lower jaw with numerous small teeth.

Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan with a tailor from the kayak, near Denham.

A popular recreational fishing species globally, tailor are primarily an inshore species and are found from Exmouth in WA across the southern side of the country and into lower Queensland on the east coast.

Known as bluefish in the United States, they are an ultra-aggressive opportunistic predator that often travels in schools and a long-time favourite with Australian anglers, especially from the shore.

They grow to 14kg, but fish of that size are very rare in WA and any tailor above 3kg is a ripper.

At the bigger sizes they are known as ‘jumbos’ or ‘green backs’ and 20lb (just over 9kg) has long been the benchmark for a true trophy tailor, while smaller fish are known as choppers.

Recently, a 12.8kg fish was caught in Wilson Inlet by a commercial fisherman. That would have eclipsed the State line caught record from near Steep Point back in 1981.

Mad-keen fisher Max Sampson with a tailor from the Swan River.

There are certainly some big tailor around Shark Bay and there have been big ones caught around the salt ponds in that area. These fish are not as strong and powerful as ocean fish though.

Dirk Hartog Island is a haunt for giant tailor as are the cliffs near Steep Point. The biggest fish I have seen caught was taken near Steep Point while spinning for pelagics.

Around the Murchison River mouth in Kalbarri is another noted big tailor spot.

Like the Denmark fish mentioned earlier, big tailor also get taken quite regularly along the south coast.

I pulled a jumbo out of a school of salmon on a popper, much to my surprise, east of Esperance many years ago.

Tailor favour periods of low light for hunting their prey and as such dawn and dusk are peak times for catching them.

They will bite at other times of the day, but they are generally most active at sunrise and sunset.

In the summer, juvenile tailor — like this one from the Collie River — can be found in big schools in many rivers and estuaries in the State’s south.

A bit of chop on the water is generally preferable to totally calm conditions, and for metro beaches the arrival of the afternoon sea breeze in summer can be the start of the chopper tailor bite.

They are often found around reefs, where they ambush predators among the chaos of the white water, taking opportunities to feed as they present.

Tailor can be caught from beaches and shore reefs, and also can be found along offshore reefs that feature breaking waves.

Chopper tailor are also caught in big numbers in estuaries and rivers, including the Swan River.

Tailor are generally a light tackle proposition and casting outfits of 4-6kg will do the job, although you may need to upgrade to 10kg-15kg gear for chasing true jumbos.

Check out this 94cm tailor caught north of Perth. Picture: Perth Fishing Safaris

Their sharp teeth means a small length of heavy leader, or even wire, is a good idea to prevent bite-offs and they will happily take baits such as whole of half mulies, whole whitebait, strips of mullet or whole bluebait.

An appropriately sized set of gang hooks should be used to match the bait. Use as much weight as is necessary to get the bait to the fish.

From the beach this could mean a large star or spoon sinker, while from a boat around reef it may mean an unweighted rig.

Big tailor experts like baitcasting whole garfish. They are willing lure takers and will hit metals, minnow lures, stickbaits and poppers with incredible gusto.

They put up a good fight, often jumping when hooked, and usually fight clean, even in reefy areas.

They should be bled immediately after capture if they are to be eaten, and should always be eaten fresh as tailor flesh does not freeze well.

Kalbarri is known for producing big tailor, as proven by local Tom Berry.