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If you’ve ever had a shy fish snub its nose
at your bait, chances are it’s because
it’s a long-dead prawn, half-cooked
Asian squid or herpes-ridden Californian
pilchard that’s on the nose.
When it comes to bait, live and local
will bring you the best results. Think bait
to plate. Here are 10 top baits and how
to get them. Abide by bait-gathering bag
limits and take only what you need for
your immediate needs.
BEACHWORMS: Get an old stocking,
put some fish in the end, wave it about
at low tide on a surf beach. As the water
recedes, the worm sticks its head up. Move
in with a small bait in your hand and hold
it carefully just upstream and above the
worm. It will rise and, just before shooting
back down, arch its back. If you’re really
good, you can use your fingers to nab
it at this moment. For novices, a pair of
electrical pliers with a pointed nose works
well. Pull the worm clear of the sand with
your hands. A top bait off the beaches.
Bag limit 20.
CRABS: You can’t collect crabs off
Intertidal Protection Areas, Aquatic
Reserves or Marine Parks. See <https://
But where you are allowed to collect them,
crabs are a cracker. Straighten an old
metal coat hanger, flatten one end with
a hammer, use pliers to cut a point and
barb, and you have a long crab spear. There
are few better baits for bream, drummer,
groper and snapper. Bag limit is 10.
CUNJEVOI: See the above restrictions
on taking invertebrates from the rocks.
But where this is okay, cunjevoi is as a
bait mainstay. The tough cunje top with
teats is best. Lob that back into the wash
to catch drummer. Cunje bag limit is 20.
GARFISH: Berley up some garfish
with bread and land them with a float and
small piece of prawn. There is no better
10 TOP BAITS
TO BRING YOU
bait for a big kingfish than a live gar from
the shore. A dead fresh garfish on ganged
hooks is almost as good. Expect tailor,
Aussie salmon, bonito, snapper and kings.
Bag limit for gar is 20.
PINK NIPPERS OR YABBIES: Hit the
estuary flats at low tide with a pump and
suck the nippers out of their holes. Invest
in a sieve and you’ll save yourself a lot of
messing about trying to find the nippers
in the ensuing muddy cloud. Whiting and
bream eat them like candy. Bag limit 100
PIPIS: Abide by strict bag limits, rules
about not consuming pipis, and removing
them from the area you caught them.
But you can keep up to 50 for bait, and
whiting and bream love them. Stand in the
shallow surf in ankle-to-knee deep water
and shuffle your feet. You’ll feel the pipis
under foot. Reach down and grab them.
PR AWNS : While you mightn’t scoop
enough prawns for a feed, usually you can
catch plenty for bait. Dark nights, a run-out
tide, a net, light and a coastal lagoon or
lake are key ingredients. Narrabeen Lake
and Dee Why Lagoon are worth a shot
in Sydney. Bag limit is 10 litres or half a
bucket. Everything eats them.
PODDY MULLET: While I’m an avid
fan of catching flathead on lures, the fish
love a live bait. Buy a clear plastic mullet
trap and fill it with some bread and a
rock. Place in the shallows where you’ve
berleyed and you’ll trap the mullet. You’re
allowed to keep 20 for live bait and flatties
SQUID: If for the calamari feast, squid
rate for bait. You just need some prawn-
type squid jigs with the feather fins, a rod
or handline to cast them, and some kelp
or weed beds. Work the jig just above the
bottom and the squid will latch on. A live
or dead whole squid is dynamite for big
kings and jewfish. Strips work well on just
about ever ything. Fresh squid out-fishes
frozen by 100:1. Bag limit 20.
YELLOWTAIL AND SLIMIES: Berley
with bread and fish scraps around wharves,
islands, deep protected shores, bridge
pylons and lights, or jig bait-rigs down
deep where you see schools on your
depth sounder. Livies pitched at the FADs
produce big mahi mahi in summer. Slow
trolled, you might catch a marlin. Soaked
down deep, kingfish will jump on. Don’t be
afraid to send your livebait back to where
you caught it. Predators are never far away.
Bag limit 50. Fun factor 100. h
Pumping nippers in Cowan Creek is a family affair.
Live nippers are easy to gather and
increase your fishing success in hard-
Weed patches are the ideal area to catch
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