Pipis / Cockles for Fishing
I’m sure we have no disagreement that fresh, natural baits provide any angler with a positive head start in the pursuit for a desired species of fish. Essentially all shellfish make excellent offerings for estuary and inshore varieties, in southern states.
Shallow, featureless and frequently turbulent stretch of sand running from Victoria, South Australian and Western Australia is home to one of the most popular baits in those state. These meaty little bivalves are plentiful between the high and low tide marks on some beaches, where they hideaway beneath the surface whilst nourishing on microscopic organisms. An average pipis measures roughly 5 cm across the shell, although they can occasionally be taken at double that size.
Notwithstanding the fact that pipis are quite appetizing, their vast attractiveness as bait for prized King George Whiting and many other species, is the main reason that they are gathered each season in countless millions. Recreational cockle gathering is common along Goolwa Beach in South Australia, particularly in the warmer months, but it is the well organised army of professional harvesters which takes the heaviest toll. It is always best check with your local regulations regarding possession limits, and closed seasons.
The Pipis Industry
Licensed operatives gather their quarry in specifically designed mesh nets or with cockle rakes, built to scoop significant numbers with the least of effort, harvested pipis are subsequently loaded on to four wheel drive automobiles, then bagged and sent alive to tackle and bait shops around the states.
The small, but booming cockle industry in South Australia is an enormously well-organized one. Such is the demand; however, that supply just can’t keep up on occasions and a cockle drought means one thing, an irritated mob of whiting specialists. The populations of cockles have all but vanished in many locations between Victoria and South Australia due to over harvesting.
Cockling with the Family
Since four wheel drive vehicles have rapidly increased in popularity in recent time’s family cockling expeditions is now a popular past time for some families. It is occasionally possible to pass through beach sand in a standard vehicle, but is at times hazardous and four wheel drive aficionados become justifiably irritated at having to salvage those who ran the gauntlet and tackled the beach in the family sedan.
All that is necessary to gather cockles at the edge of the surf line is a shopping bag or basket, and plenty of energy. As cockles generally inhabit the top 30 cm of sand, an effective and economical technique of locating them is to move the feet in a twisting motion, gradually digging downward into the sand until they are felt with the toes. This can occasionally be pretty entertaining for the kids, however, be careful of submerged crabs (ouch). An alternative method of finding pipis beneath the sand is to observe the water rushing back into the sea, when the water rolls back you will see a little disk shaped lump in the sand.
Baiting up with Pipis
Granted most whiting specialists prefer to use their cockle’s fresh, they are still great bait after freezing. The flesh tends to soften when defrosted, but this doesn’t seem to diminish from their appeal on the hook. In fact, many feel that if the whiting are a little fussy, the tenderness of a frozen cockle may well be a decided asset. In any case, pipis sales from bait and tackle shops are sustained right throughout the winter and closed seasons. A knife is vital to open pipis when they are used alive as like most bivalves, the muscle hinge joining the shells is extremely strong. Once frozen of course the animal dies and the cells are prized apart with the fingers alone. For average sized whiting a No 4 suicide hook is ideal which will accommodate a whole cockle with ease. Another good rig is a paternoster flasher rig, which uses an iridescent material (flashabu) to reflect light and attract the fish. These rigs are deadly when loaded with fresh cockle. Hook in Mouth Tackle has taken the whiting flasher rig to a whole new level by re-engineering it to great effect. This rig uses a specialized material (Ultra Violet) that glows 10 times more than a standard flasher, when subjected to light. You can charge up the rig under the light of your smart phone or any other light you might own. This rig is a game changer, and is only exclusively available from Hook in Mouth Tackle.
Using Pipis as Berley
As berley is of paramount importance to the whiting specialist, they usually take home any unused pipis from a day on the water to be frozen and used as ground bait on a forthcoming trip out. A berley pot loaded with crushed pipis and lowered to the seabed will soon have the old factory organs of any whiting working overtime. Alternatively, after the flesh of bait cockles has been removed for the hook, the empty shells thrown overboard will have a similar effect. Enough of the inner juices are reserved on the shell to set up a significant scent trail, particularly if the shells are all dropped in a confided region round the boat.
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