We all know that when it comes to fishing, the fresher the bait is, the better the chances are of you getting a fish to take home. Most of us take this notion serious enough to take it upon ourselves to wade into the water with our prawn pumps, or out onto the wave swept rocks with our bait knives to collect fresh bait. However, time often doesn’t allow us this liberty, or the fish are taking baits that aren’t available from our mudbanks or rocky shoreline. This forces us to swallow our pride, grab the wallet, open those sticky (stinky) bait freezers and rummage in the depths for something that looks like a winning pack of bait. There are a few key things to look for when selecting your bait. Remember, the fresher the better, and there are a few tell tail signs which can help you in selecting a “fish catching” pack of bait:
- Make sure there is no evidence of oil or blood stains in the bag or box. This is a sure sign that the bait has either been defrosted, or frozen too slowly, and the oils and juices have leeched out. This often will result in flesh that is mushy once defrosted. In fish baits such as sardine or pike a sign of this is when the flesh below the skin has a yellowish tinge.
- Another good method for checking fish bait freshness is in the clarity of the eye and brightness of the skin pattern. Fish that have thawed too many times after freezing often have cloudy eyes that are recessed into the eye sockets and dull skin colour, whilst fresher fish have clear eyes that bulge out slightly and brightly coloured skin. Gill colour is important too, in this case the redder the better.
- In the case of tjokka or squid baits, the flesh should be slightly translucent (see through). A solid white tjokka has often been frozen and defrosted or has bad freezer burn.
- In the case of shellfish baits (white mussel etc), the shell should remain firmly closed. Open shells indicate that the bait was left out for too long, and died before being frozen.
- In the case of redbait, it is always beneficial if the bait has been frozen in seawater. If the redbait has black marks on it then it hasn’t been fully immersed in seawater. If freezing your own red bait, one can mature it for a few days (this can be a stinky process) and then fully immersing in fresh seawater and freezing. Never rinse or freeze red bait in freshwater.
- Check that the bait has not been crushed. This can indicate either that the bait has been badly handled, or that the bait has been allowed to defrost. Crushed bait has flesh that is bruised and soft, often too soft to stay on a hook. Oils and juices have been forced out of crushed bait.
Look for evidence of freezer burn. This may show up as bruising on the skin, or discolouration of the skin. This indicates the bait has been poorly treated when freezing, or that the bait has been in the freezer for too long. Again, freezer-burned bait will be low on oils and juices.
Make sure of all the above and get an idea of what is working before buying bait to get the best results when going fishing. Hopefully this will result in a successful outing and you will get fish to go in the pan or onto the coals.
Always remember to limit your catch, rather than catch your limit.