Looking After Your Bait
  |  First Published: May 2005

The wet season is well and truly over and once again it was a disappointing time for Karumba. Checking back over the contributions I have made for the month of May over the last 5 years, it seems that I have to sing the same tune at this time of year.

For the last 5 years, the wets have been on a downward spiral. There has been less rain and more fishing pressure both commercially and recreationally. This is not a good combination and the fishing action has shown some indication that it is now definitely being affected.

The fishing over the last month has been inconsistent with mixed bags the order of the day. Some boats have returned to the ramp with good bags of grunter or salmon, while others have come up with nothing.

They say that 10 percent of all fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish. Don’t be part of the hurl and hope brigade. Take some simple steps to help you catch your dinner tonight.

Looking after your bait

Firstly, make sure your bait is of good quality. Not all supply outlets in Karumba have good fresh bait, so check out what you are buying and make sure it is not old or poor quality. You can’t expect to catch good fish on old, crappy bait that has been thawed out and re-frozen a couple of times. If you have frozen bait, keep it all together in a little esky. By taking out only what you need at any one time, your bait will stay a lot fresher and be more presentable.

For those who are capable of catching their own bait, make sure you look after it. If you net mullet for later use, put them straight into an esky, out of the sun. Or you can freeze them straight away and they will come out of the freezer looking like new.

If you keep the bait alive, then keep checking the live bait container. No matter how good your bait system is, some will die. Get them out of the water straight away and into the esky to help preserve them. The water here is still quite warm, even in winter, and it doesn’t take long for the baitfish to go off and pollute the water for the other fish. It also helps reduce wastage.

If you are using a drag net at Karumba, be careful. Even though you don’t see them much there are large saltwater crocodiles that call the town reach of the river home.

Looking after your catch

You have looked after your bait and caught a feed. Next, it is time to look after your fish.

First of all bleed the fish. You can brain spike the fish to kill it instantly and make it easier to handle. Then, simply clip one gill; you don’t have to slit the whole throat. Make sure you have the fish in a bucket or kill tank, as the blood will jet out of the clipped gill. Let the fish bleed out under a wet towel or in the kill tank and then place it in an ice slurry. Clean or fillet and don’t forget the wings.

Releasing Fish

If you plan to release your fish here are some tips to ensure someone else gets to enjoy catching the fish you are releasing. Hopefully it will be you.

Use gear that is capable of catching the sized fish that is expected. Keep the tools necessary to release the fish close at hand and if practical, remove the hooks from the fish in the water. Try not to suspend the fish vertically by hanging on to its jaw. The use of fish grippers like a Boga grip is best when the weight of the fish is supported with the other hand.

I recommend purchasing an Environet to prevent the damage to the slime coat from traditional landing nets. Wet your hands before handling fish and lay them somewhere out of the sun on a wet towel or wet carpet.

If you want to weigh the fish, try to do so in the landing net and deduct the weight of the net later. Use barbless hooks where possible and if a fish has swallowed a hook deeply, then let him have it. Research indicates that cutting the line 20cm from the hook can assist the hook from blocking internal passageways.

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