Catch your own live bait to take your fishing to the next level.
Perhaps the most frustrating truism in fishing is the old phrase, ‘that’s why they call it fishing, not catching!’
Usually uttered in the aftermath of another lacklustre session by those that are feeling philosophical.
The thing is, there will always be an element of luck and chance involved in fishing, but there are plenty of things that you can actively do to align the odds in your favour.
If you want to start seeing your results improve, you need to be scientific in your approach.
Picking a target species and studying its behaviour is a solid starting point. Learning how and where your target species lives and hunts will allow you to focus your energy fishing for them at the right times and places.
Studying how tides and weather conditions affect the way your target species behaves will allow you to tailor your approach and catch more fish.
It’s quite a liberating feeling to take control of your results, to stop wasting time with ineffective techniques and to start catching more fish.
Like the Jedi master Yoda said – ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try!’
Catching and using live bait is one of the most effective techniques if you want to start catching more and better fish on a regular basis.
It can take a little bit of time to get the hang of, but once you know what you’re doing, catching bait starts to feel like an integral component of going fishing.
Sourcing your own fresh livies allows you to fish with confidence and is guaranteed to improve your chances of hooking up to your target species.
LIVE BAIT TYPES
When you consider the food chain that’s at work below sea level, almost anything that swims could be considered a potential live bait.
It’s certainly true that some fantastic catches have been recorded over the years on very unconventional baits. That said, there are a handful of species of fish and invertebrates that have been proven to work when targeting the popular recreational species.
A good live bait needs to make up a big part of the target species’ normal diet, be easy enough to catch consistently and be hardy enough to last well in a live bait tank and in the water once rigged up and deployed.
A good quality bait aerator is a must-have in order to ensure you’re hard-won livies stay healthy and fighting fit long enough to be deployed in front of hungry predators.
The most popular all rounder livies include yellowtail scad (yakkas), slimy mackerel, garfish, poddy mullet, squid, prawns and saltwater nippers. Larger baits such as bonito and even small tuna are sometimes used when targeting large game fish.
LIVE BAITS FOR PELAGICS
When targeting pelagic species like kingfish, Spanish mackerel or tuna, some of the most effective livies available are slimy mackerel and garfish.
These two species seem to be right at the top of the list of most pelagic fish’s favourite foods, and they’re generally fairly simple to source in the right areas. Squid are another very effective bait, particularly when targeting kingfish.
Yakkas are perhaps a little less effective than the above baits for targeting pelagics, but they make up for this by being readily available, simple to catch and incredibly hardy.
Yakkas will literally stay alive for hours in an aerated bait tank and can swim around under a float for just as long before they’re eaten.
When targeting large tuna or marlin or extra large kingfish, some fishos like to catch big frigate mackerel, bonito and even smaller mackerel tuna and deploy them with a bridle rig.
These larger bait species don’t last well in bait tanks and generally need to be rigged up and sent back out in the water immediately after being caught.
LIVE BAITS IN THE ESTUARY
At the other end of the food chain, live baits work consistently well in estuaries, bays and rivers when targeting a surprisingly wide range of fish.
Conventional baits like yakkas can work well when targeting jewfish and large flathead, but poddy mullet work at least as well and are probably the premier bait for flathead fishos.
Poddy mullet can be caught using tiny hooks and bread baits, but are more effectively targeted in a clear plastic trap baited with bread.
Prawns and saltwater nippers are another two species that can be caught on site within many estuaries and are prime bait when fishing for flathead, bream, estuary perch, flounder, whiting and trevally.
Saltwater nippers are best caught by patrolling the mud flats that fringe many estuaries at low tide, armed with a bait pump, sieve and bucket. The mud is pumped close to the shoreline and it’s usually quickly evident if an area holds nippers.
Prawns can be a bit trickier to catch and are best targeted at night, armed with a prawning net and a bright torch. The best nights to target prawns in most estuaries are on the darker nights leading up to and over the new moon, particularly on a run out tide.
Fresh green prawns are dynamite bait for almost any species in most estuaries.
LOOK AFTER YOUR LIVIES
After putting in all the effort to catch a supply of livies, it’s imperative that you look after them in order to keep them in great condition for as long as possible and maximise your chances of bringing home a quality haul of fish.
Most live bait species will last best in a tank or pool of cool salt water that is regularly changed and aerated with a battery powered pump.
Battery powered aerators are affordable and should be considered a necessity if you want your baits to last the distance.
Putting in the time to learn to catch and fish with live baits is one of the most solid investments you can make in your fishing career. It’s pretty incredible the results that can be seen almost instantly after switching over to using the right baits.
Catching better fish is the best motivation to get out there and spend more time on the water, and that’s something we could all do with a bit more of!