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Getting the best from bait
  |  First Published: August 2004



WHETHER you are fishing for mulloway, bream, flathead, trevally, drummer or luderick, to increase your success you need to have prime baits.

Here are some popular baits, where they are found, how to gather or catch them and how to store them.

CUNJEVOI

Where: These fist-sized leathery lumps are sea squirts found towards the low-tide mark on the edges of low reef areas, sloping rocks boulders, channel markers, buoys and in rock pools.

To gather: You will need to use a robust, heavy-duty, short-bladed knife to cut through the leathery exterior of the cunjevoi to expose the red meat inside. Cut through the skin just below the ‘crown’ of the cunjevoi, then slice your way around the skin and lift out the top and the meat inside, leaving an empty cup. A bag limit of 20 applies.

Storing: Use straight away or put the meat into a plastic container, lightly salt and store in your freezer. Make sure that you put the date on the lid so you can rotate the containers around in your freezer.

GREEN OR BROWN CABBAGE

Where: Between the low and high-tide marks on the edge of low reef areas, sloping rocks boulders, channel markers, buoys and in rock pools.

To gather: Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the cabbage at its base where it is attached to the rock and gently twist it off.

Storing: Use straight away or store in a container for later use that day. If you are gathering cabbage at one place to fish in another place or a couple of days later, wrap it in newspaper and store in the bottom of the fridge.

GREEN WEED

Where: The green weed found in the estuaries is usually fine and has a thread-like appearance. This seaweed bait can be found on submerged estuarine rocks, breakwalls, wharves, bridge pylons, submerged logs and also over shallow flats that have been left dry for extended periods.

To gather: A small stormwater drain near my place has an abundance of green weed but, due to the depth of the water and the muddy bottom, it can be hard to get. I use my extendable swimming pool pole, fix a screw into the end and then poke it out into the weed, then rotate the pole until I have twisted some weed onto it.

Storing: Your best bet would be to carefully wring out the excess water, wrap it up in newspaper and then store it in the fridge for a few days. Once it has started to go a bit slimy, you can always chop it up for berley.

SQUID

Where: Squid just love to hang around places where there is a combination of rocks or boulders, kelp and sand. You can also jig them up over seagrass beds in estuaries.

To catch: I prefer to have three different sizes and colours of squid jigs, but you could also try using those squid spikes with blue pilchards them. When retrieving the jig you should wind it very slowly, keeping it away from the bottom, or retrieve it and slowly raise the rod tip, giving the jig a yo-yo motion.

Storing: Fresh is definitely best when fishing for mulloway but if you do get a few squid you can store them in snap-seal plastic bags. Making sure that you get the bulk of the air out of the bag before sealing it.

YELLOWTAIL, GARFISH

Where: Yellowtail and garfish just love to hang around a combination of rocks or boulders, kelp and sand. They can also be found around wharves, pylons, swing moorings, inshore and offshore reefs, or just about anywhere there is a structure of some kind.

To catch: For yellowtail I use a handline with a paternoster rig, No 8 or 10 long-shanked hook, a small split shot, a small piece of pilchard, tuna, chicken fillet or any other bait that has a bit of oil in it and a steady stream of berley. The trick to getting the fussy yellowtail to bite is to use pilchards as berley.

For garfish you can use a handline with a similar hook, a small piece of pilchard, tuna, chicken fillet or bread and a steady stream of berley. The trick to getting garfish to bite is to use pilchards as berley and don’t use split shot, just let the bait float in the top part of the water.

Storing: If you are going to keep them live you will need to get a reliable aerator or continually keep changing the water, otherwise they will die very quickly. Dead whole or filleted yellowtail can be stored in a plastic container in the freezer.

SLIMY MACKEREL, PIKE

Where: Slimy mackerel and yellowfin pike love to hang around places where there is a combination of rocks or boulders, kelp and sand. They can also be found around wharves, pylons, swing moorings, inshore and offshore reefs or just about anywhere there is structure. At certain times you will come across huge schools of slimy mackerel feeding on very small baitfish.

To catch: Slimy mackerel and pike can be trolled up on very small minnows and chrome lures which are towed from two to four knots. They will also school up on inshore reefs, around marker buoys and most other structures are found in the bays. When anchored up on an inshore reef you will need to berley them to the boat. Once they are in the berley trail you will need keep up a small but consistent trail.

Depending on the size of the fish you can vary your hook size from a No 8 long-shank to a No 1. Very small pieces of prawn, pilchard, tuna or chicken breast are the bait.

Storing: To keep them live you will need a live-bait tank or a reliable aerator in a plastic bucket or continually keep changing the water. Dead whole or in fillets, they can be stored in a plastic container in the freezer. You could sprinkle a bit of salt over them but I find that they are just as good without the salt. If you have the space and the time you could set up a set of shallow tanks and keep them the same way that they do in the bait shops.

PINK NIPPERS

Where: Found in most estuaries around Australia, nippers or yabbies vary in size and numbers. All you need to do is look for the holes they leave on the surface of the sand or mud.

To gather: I have found that it essential to have a pump that is not too short and that the rubber rings are in good working order. Once you have located a series of nipper holes, place the end of the pump over the hole and while drawing the handle out of the pump, push down with the other. After expelling the sand or mud, repeat this process until you suck out the nippers. About four to six pumps are required for each hole to get the most nippers out.

Storing: To keep them alive for a while you will need to change the water regularly or invest in a good aerator. Make sure that you take out any dead ones as they will contaminate the water. I have tried many different methods of freezing them but now all I do is tip them out onto a paper towel and let the water drain off them, then place about 20 into a Chinese takeaway container and put them in the freezer. You will amazed at how well they freeze and how good a bait they are when they have thawed out.

To learn more about fishing the Sydney area, call me on the number in the ad on this page or email me.

There are a number of restrictions on bait collection so make sure you check NSW Fisheries regulations.

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