How to Catch Live Bait

Gathering a good supply of bait is always a lot easier and quicker when you have the right equipment. A yabby pump is a good investment. a bait net or a cast net will give years of service, and there are also a number of fish traps either on the market or easily made for catching bait?sh.

Bait Nets

Novice anglers are often confused about the difference between a bait net, a drag net and a cast net. Bait net and dragnet are terms for the same thing. However, a bait net is not a cast net, although a cast net is certainly a bait gathering net!

A bait net is usually made of 3 cm mesh it is between 8 and 30 metres long with a 2-metre drop. It has a lead line at the bottom. a cork or ?oat line at the top and a pole at each end. it is operated by two people, each one holding a pole affixed to the end of the net.

Beginning at one end of a beach, the two operators walk along in the shallow water. the shorter person holding the pole nearest to the beach. As they approach the other end of the beach, they gradually come closer, the depth of the net increasing, until they finally meet to find, hopefully, that the net is full of baitfish.

Bait Traps

The most popular bait fish traps are usually made of a wire mesh or chicken wire molded around a wooden or wire frame. They can be quite easily made at home in a variety of shapes and sizes but the fundamental characteristic common to all designs is a funnel-shaped mouth or entrance.

This mouth decreases in size as it funnels into the trap. The trap is baited with any mixture of food likely to attract fish. such as bread, old fish heads. cooked prawn shells, crushed mussels, and other ?sh scraps. Following the scent of food. fish swim into the trap. Once inside they are trapped. usually unable to escape. They seem unable to reason that they can swim to freedom through the smaller hole on the inside, although some do manage to escape accidentally.

There are small plastic fish traps on the market based on this design and which are mainly used to catch small baitfish. Larger fish traps can be used to take yellowtail or mullet. Fish traps are usually set in estuaries where there is little water movement from strong currents or waves. They are left for a few minutes, an hour or overnight.

Always set the trap close to the shore with the openings facing in the direction of the tidal run. It’s important to tie a rope or cord to the top of the trap for retrieval and it’s also a good idea to have a buoy or ?oat on the rope so you can find the trap easily.

The Cast Net

Used by man since time immemorial to capture ?sh and game, the cast net or umbrella net has been an important hunting aid for thousands of years and is still used all over the world. lt was used in ancient times in England to catch wildfowl and is still being used by Arab fishermen in the Middle East to capture schools of sardines.

Once you’ve mastered the art of handling and casting a cast net. you’ll almost always be able to take a good supply of fresh baitfish such as mullet, sardines, pilchards, garfish and prawns. However, it must be warned that these nets are illegal in most southern states and can be used without prosecution only in Queensland. West Oz and the Top End.

A cast net is a cone of netting, meshed in such a way that it will lie flat when spread. This is achieved by knitting rows of slightly larger meshes at certain intervals in the cone of the net. If all the mesh was of the same size. the cone shaped net would not spread out when casting onto the water.

A Variety of Drops

Cast nets are made in varying sizes and are measured by what is called the ‘drop’ or distance from the apex of the cone to the leadline when the net is hung vertically. In practical terms, this is one-half of the diameter of the net.

For all-round use. the recommended net size or drop is 2.5 metres. Smaller nets with a drop of 1.5 metres are available for junior anglers. The recommended mesh size for an all-round net is 3 cm.

Nets are also available in different gauges of the thread, the most common being four ply and six ply. Kuralon is tough and easy to knot when being repaired, but it also absorbs more water and can become heavy and difficult to cast. Nylon thread is lighter and lasts longer. but care with knots must be taken when repairs are made.

The expensive monofilament nets have a centre cord that draws the leadline together when the net is being retrieved. This prevents anything in the net from escaping. Some cast nets are made with pockets around the leadline to stop bait falling out when retrieved. These pockets make it hard for the bait to escape but also pick up rubbish, shells. stones. broken bottles and other unwanted refuse.

Locating Baitfish Before using the cast net, bait dragnet or trap, it’s necessary to know where baitfish are likely to be found.

Surface—swimming fish such as mullet are often easy to see and trap or cast at. These fish can be found from the ocean beaches and inshore areas to the upper reaches of tidal rivers, and even in fresh water.

Small, silvery baitfish such as sardines, anchovies, herring, and pilchards are also easy to spot in clear water because of the re?ected light from their ?ashing sides. These baitfish travel in schools and can often be taken in good numbers from the wharves and jetties in bays and inlets.

Garfish are a more difficult prey, but can be attracted with berley and captured from shallow, weedy spots in estuaries. Other popular baitfish include hardyheads. sandy sprats. yellowtail and slimy mackerel. These can also be captured in the most shallow areas of bays, inlets, and estuaries and are superb bait for the larger. predatory species.

The Yabby Pump

A good bait pump for extracting yabbies. worms and small crabs from estuary flats are an excellent investment when weighed against the frequent purchase of prawns and other bait.

The bait pump also called a worm, nipper or yabby pump is of simple design and can be constructed at home without too much difficulty, although most anglers prefer to buy them.

These pumps consist of a round cylinder. usually of non-rusting metal about 60 to 80 cm long and 5O mm in diameter. Suction is derived by pulling up a plunger. to the end of which is screwed a series of pliable rubber washers which are compressed by a wing nut to make an airtight fit and allow suction. Using a yabby pump is a matter of timing. The pump should be pushed into the sand over a yabby hole and the plunger withdrawn. When the pump has reached its limit, it is taken from the sand and the plunger pushed down to eject the sand and the trapped yabbies. worms or crabs.

Nippers or bass yabbies are soon exposed as they try to flap and dig their way back into the soft surface.

Because the pump is made from polished metal. it is easy to push in the sand and also to pull out.

Most yabby pumps have a fixed handle protruding from one side at the top, as well as the handle on the top connected to the plunger rod.

Scoop Nets

Scoop nets or prawn scoops are inexpensive and are an effective and easy way to gather bait such as prawns, shrimp, and poddy mullet.

These nets are all you need. together with a ?ashlight. on a dark summer’s night, to take a good haul of prawns from shallow sand?ats in estuaries.

The scoop net can also be put to good use around wharves and jetties to take baitfish such as gar?sh. and small yellowtail or squid. Even in daylight hours. a scoop net run through ribbon weed or seagrass areas will often pick up prawns. shrimp. tiny pencil garfish and other bait.

The traditional scoop has a thick wire frame with a hardwood handle and is designed to stand up to heavy use. However, it can also be a bit tiring, especially for prawners operating it for a couple of hours after dark.

The newer style scoop nets have a light, aluminium frame which makes the work a lot easier. These also come with a longer handle or an extension which can be screwed on if collecting baitfish or prawning from a pier or jetty.

Knives and Spears

A good. sharp. stainless steel knife is a necessary part of any fisherman’s equipment. lt should be worn on a belt around the waist and sheathed when not in use.

Such a knife allows you to gather and prepare natural baits such as cunjevoi and fish fillets and other cut baits. it can also help extract limpets, periwinkles. oysters and other similar baits from their shells.

Many tackle shops also carry supplies of simple spears which can be used to impale octopus and crabs when collecting bait from around the foreshores. However, a strong stick with an appropriately sharpened wire affixed to the end can often be fashioned at home and is quite effective for probing in and around rocky crevices in search of bait.