Preserving and Preparing Your Baits

Preserving and Preparing Your Baits


Correctly preserved and primed baits can save you cash and turn useless leftovers into awesome fish producers. There is no debating the fact that fresh bait is the best bait. However, it is not always possible or practical. There will be situations when you come home with leftover bait, and hopefully, a bag of good eating fish. It is this situation, which make learning how to preserve leftover bait pay off. An angler who only fishes a few times a year may not want to bother with it, but those of us who are avid anglers, it can be of great importance.

Whilst most of the frequently used baits can be purchased from your local tackle shop, there are many exceptional baits that have either to be caught or collected by the angler. Several of these baits, or unused percentages of them, when appropriately preserved can be re-used effectively on many forthcoming fishing outings.


Although you can squeeze in some frozen bait from time to time, or try your luck at hiding your bait behind the spaghetti bolognaise in the family freezer. Nine times out of ten, the wife will find it and it may lead to many household disputes!  Do yourself a favour and get a large chest or upright freezer and locate it out in the man-cave. Then you can store until your heart’s content. Or like me, store it in the freezer at work, LOL.

Most baits freeze well and some can be re-frozen after one outing. However, it should be remembered that freezing any bait will certainly not improve it. The fresher the bait when it is frozen them more effective it will be when it is thaws out.

Most of the popular bait fish can be frozen at some time after capture, especially those with firm flesh such as garfish. Others such as pilchards, only thaw in good conditions, if frozen almost directly after being taken from the water, as is normally the case with  commercially frozen block pilchards, particularly those from Western Australia. Soft fleshed, oily fish such as tailor, tuna or salmon are not suitable for freezing as the flesh becomes mushy and problematic to handle. These baits are best brined or slated. Yabbies also freeze reasonably well, provided that they are fresh, but from experience are not too good to re-freeze, as they get way to soft. A little salt applied to them will guarantee they stay tough when thawed, though such bait will never match the fresh live piece.

Preserving Prawns

The most prevalent and maybe the best all round saltwater bait is the humble prawn. Fresh prawns bought at the local fish merchant or seafood co-op are at the best one day old, and at worst two or three days old. By the time you essentially bait them on the hook and present them to the fish, they may be anything but fresh. On the other hand, frozen prawns can be kept in a home freezer right up until you are nearly ready to go fishing.

If you’ve had a fruitful prawning evening and come with a sufficient amount for pleasant meal and have some left over, these can be frozen without any trouble. School prawns, which are lighter in colour, freeze very well, and need little preparation. They should be washed, drained and packed in plastic bags. Consecutively, they can be frozen in container of sea water ensuring they are well covered. Fresh frozen prawns thaw-out like new with this technique.

Greasybacks, kings and Sydney harbor prawns which are usually darker in colour need more care. They should be decapitated and washed in a weak salt solution then drained and dry stored in a fridge without freezing. Prawns preserved this way will keep practically well for five to six days. After this handling they may also be frozen, but expect some decline in quality.

Brine Solution

Another technique for conserving prawns is to behead them, wash the bodies in pure salty water and drain. Then combine a tablespoon of sugar with a cup of culinary salt. Place the prawns in a glass jar among alternate layers of this concoction until the jar is full. The brine made will cover the prawns after an hour or so. If not increase the mixture and place a lid on the jar but not tightly, store in the fridge or in a cool place so it does not freeze.

Prior to using brined prawns as bait, immerse then in saltwater for about 30 minutes. Apart from being kept in a usable condition for many weeks, prawns conserved with this technique are tough, resilient bait. One different method of preserving prawns is to heat and peel them, and then sprinkle with borax power. The bait then becomes pleasant to handle there is no smell in the boat and more importantly, the fish apparently do not mind the smell of the borax.

Frozen Bait-fish

Of all the frozen bait-fish available from commercial outlets, pilchards are the most popular and widely available. The most cost-effective way to buy them is in a large pack weighing around 2 kg. Although, you might find this amount is way too many for one outing. The frozen pack can be easily separated by dropping it on concrete. Set aside what you will need, and then the rest can be retained back in the freezer. Thawed pilchards can also be salted to make them ore resilient. First, spread the fish out on newspaper sheets and sprinkle them with salt. Butchers salt is more effective than table slat. Then, wrap the pilchards in numerous layers of the newspaper. This will absorb any surplus juice. Although these baits may not be quite as effective as the snap frozen originals they are favoured as snapper bait by many anglers in the know.

Garfish are another top bait fish which can be frozen at home for later use. Their strong flesh makes them an even better proposition for home preserving than pilchards. If they appear to be in good nick, can be froze at home and used later with success. A good tip is to break off the pointy bill of the fish to allow them to be packed consistently.

Freezing Fish Fillets

When you’ve enjoyed a successful day’s fishing and possibly brought home more than sufficient amount of fish for the family, contemplate storing some away as bait for the further outing. Many bigger fish such as tailor, tuna and mackerel can be filleted and frozen, while smaller fish are often best frozen complete. Both sides of larger fish fillets should be covered with salt, and then bound in newspaper for about 24 hours to soak up any additional liquid before being located in the freezer. Salts will last longer when thawed and salted fish flesh stays on the hook much longer.

Dry Salting

One of the oldest preservatives known to mankind, slat in various forms can be used to preserve fish. The best thing about slat preservation is that fish will willingly take salted bait. Some soft fish flesh is greatly enhanced by slating. Pipis , mussels and most shellfish can also be preserved by salting. These baits will toughen up and certainly benefit from an application of salt. Correctly prepared and preserve with salt cunevoi will last for months if kept in a cool place or the refrigerator. First the cunjevoi should be meticulously washed and surplus between layers of coarse salt in a glass jar or container with a loosely fitting lid and store. Excess brine should be dried off from time to time the aim being to keep the bait more dry than we. The container should be upended periodically to ensure the top sections do not dry out entirely. Preserved in this way cunjevoi loses none of its appealing to fish.