Gathering bait
  |  First Published: October 2004

THIS MONTH I’d like to look at bait gathering and where to store your bait. I love my lure fishing but I still fish with bait for bream, flathead, jewfish and blackfish occasionally. Every budding angler should learn how to collect and fish with bait and how to look after it.

For estuary fishing there are several baits that work well. These include squid, strip baits of yellowtail or mullet, prawns, pilchards, nippers, squirt worms and blood worms.

Pilchards, prawns and squid can be bought from tackle or bait shops, but buying bait is not a cheap option for most juniors and it’s easy to spend $10 or $20 for just a few days’ fishing. An easy way to reduce this cost is to only take enough bait to last for the fishing session. Break bigger packets of bait up into smaller packets and thaw out only what you need for the morning. Don’t leave bait out in the sun to go off while you fish, and if possible keep it in a bucket of saltwater so it stays moist and cool. Refreeze any leftover bait for berley on the next trip if it’s no good for bait. Old pilchards and prawns make great berley for bream if you cut them up into small pieces and throw a few in the water every now and then.

Keeping your bait also needs some attention. Chuck a few smelly plastic bags in your mum’s food freezer and your fishing career may take a sudden nosedive, so make sure it’s OK first and be sure to put your bait in zip-lock bags that are easy to reseal and don’t leak fish smell through the freezer. The best option is to get a small freezer just for bait. Have a look around at garage sales or for a second-hand unit. You don’t need to spend big dollars on a bait freezer, you just need something big enough that keeps your bait frozen. A small freezer for bait can be kept in the garage, but keep it clean and tidy.

Some estuary baits can be gathered on the water, and these include pink and green nippers, worms, crabs and strip baits. When gathering bait ensure you aren’t breaking any bag limits or taking things from a Sanctuary Zone or Marine Park. The trick with gathering your own bait is to take what you need to fish that day and don’t waste it. Fresh bait is always best, and taking more than you need and wasting it or trying to freeze it is a waste of time. Keep your nippers alive in a bucket of water and any left over can be released back over the flats to keep breeding and be used next time.

See you next month.


1. Pumping nippers on a flat like this at low tide and then fishing them on the run-up tide is a very effective way to catch flathead and bream in most estuaries.

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