Berley Up – Part 1
In the United Kingdom it’s known as ground baiting, in America it’s known as chumming, while in Australia we call it berleying. Whatever you want to call it the method of putting food particles and smells into the water in order to attract fish and then entice them to bite is a proven way of increasing your catches.
Although some fishermen have their doubts about using berley, in situations where it can be distributed correctly, burley can make the difference between catching the odd fish or going home with a full bag. The basic purpose of berley is to bring a number of dispersed fish to a central point and make them bite more aggressively. Most fish will do this if suddenly exposed to an unexpected supply of feed. It stimulates them to want more. However, incorrect berleying can sometimes have the reverse effect, actually decreasing the catch by carrying the fish away from the angler or by satisfying their hunger before they reach the bait. It is highly important to learn about and understand your tides and currents and the movement of your berley in the water.
The Berley Trail
Berleying is best done in a relatively closed environment of calm water rather than one where current; tide or wave action quickly disperses the trail away from your location. If carried out in an open environment, the berley trail should be kept as an unbroken as possible so that fish travelling along it remain to be drawn towards the angler.
Once you are into the habit of using berley, you’ll find yourself collecting stale bread and setting aside a spot in the freezer of fish frames, offal and unwanted scraps of food. You’ll also find yourself using bait off-cuts, prawn shells and fish guts as fish attractors. It not only helps keep your boat, jetty, rocks and river bank clean but adds to the berley trail, bringing the fish toward you and putting them in a feeding mood.
A good tip is to begin to setting up your berley pot quite close to the surface, this way you get to see how far it is dispersing and how far it is going away from your location, which will quickly tell you how fast the current is moving. If your berley is racing across the surface, then you should sink it as deep as possible. If the burley is sinking nicely then you may want to leave the pot close to the surface, in this exercise you really want to play it by ear. Remember, the idea is to draw fish to you, as you don’t want your berley dispersing so far away by the time it actually gets to where the fish are is miles away from your casting limit.
Bread for Beginners
Because scent plays a large role in a berley’s success, many anglers unreliably believe that the foulest smelling concoctions are the one that will work best. (Debatable)
One used by beginners to trap many a good fish, is stale bread. Especially in estuaries, bread is without equal as berley and on some occasions will seduce the fish right to the surface. Bread should be saturated in water for about 10 minutes, then scattered around the boat or land based fishing location, a little at a time. Some of the popular fish which can be berleyed with bread include garfish, bream, mullet, tommy ruff, luderick, drummer and trevally.
Bread can be useful in enticing a school of bait fish to the edge of a wharf or jetty. Where the bait fish are feeding, the larger predators can’t be far behind. Bread is also often used to bring yellowtail or other bait species over the top of a scoop net. Other berleys that will attract bait fish include mashed potato, which can be conveniently minced strait from a packet. Fish scraps of mulched pilchards make an excellent berley for bream, trevally, kingfish, snapper, garfish , leatherjacket and sweep.
When herring are on the run in Western Australia, anglers from that state have wonderful success with a berley slick of fish oil. A combination of bread and oil is also very good. However, it’s not even required to have fish based oil, as regular olive oil has been known to yield results.
Pilchard oil and tuna oil have all been promoted for anglers to add to their favourite berley mixtures and all can be equally effective.
Some anglers pour a combination of fat and oil, on various items of old clothing such as a stocking or a singlet liberally soaked in oil and hung overboard can produce a good surface oil slick of berley, too. This is a great method if you are kayaking fishing and want to lighten your load a little and leave the berley pot home.
When to Berley
As soon as an angler arrives at his favourite destination or drops anchor, they should commence berleying. Intervals of three or four minutes are best at the beginging if scooping berley overboard, with longer breaks later on. Even when the fish begin biting, it’s a good idea to keep berleying to alleviate their suspicions and keep them restricted to the area. Don’t go overboard, over fed fish quickly go off the bite.
Offshore boat fishermen can attract bottom dwelling fish and game species up towards the action with a good berley trail. Snapper respond well to berley and have been known to rise to the surface and chop like tailor as the result of a good berley slick. Snapper can be tempted with bread, wheat, chicken pallets and chopped fish flesh, especially the oily pilchard or mackerel. This type of berley is also effective of trevally, mulloway, kingfish, tailor, Australian salmon and bream.
Chicken feed pellets are a popular berley, needing almost no groundwork, mixing or special storage. They should simply be soaked for fifteen minutes, preferably with some oil added to the water and a quantity tipped over the side of the boat every ten minutes or so, otherwise hung overboard with a berley pot. Another quick and easy berley can be bought for the price of a tin of cat food. Simply puncture a few holes in the tin and hang it over the side of the boat on a length of light cord. Other instant berley incudes any chopped up pieces of leftover bait, fish frames, cunje cases, crushed sea urchins crushed oyster crushed pipis or muscles boiled wheat, blood and bone, prawns or crab leftovers , animal liver, offal and billed dripping. All have been known to draw fish to the bait.
Part 2 will contain specific recipes and tips on successful berleying.
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