Using Livies for Bait
The diet of Australia’s larger, predatory fish comprises many of the smaller baitfish, so livies are a top offering for many hunted fish. There is practically no limit to the kinds of fish that can be used as live bait to catch other bigger fish. Bonito, luderick, mackerel, mullet, anchovies, pilchards, trevally tailor, tuna, garfish and yellowtail are just a small segment of the more common baitfish.
However, choosing the bait is only half the problem. The way these fish are offered on the hook and their overall state of vigour and appearance can be of vital importance when live baiting.
Also, understanding the feeding behaviours of the predatory fish you’re pursuing – whether it’s a day or night feeder, a shallow or surface dweller – has a direct bearing on your capacity to take fish.
Many fish are extremely sensitive to the odour of humans on baits or tackle. This scent may put them off the chew. While the smallest taint of human odour will set some fish swimming in the opposite direction. This issue can be overcome by rubbing your hands in sand, mud or seaweed, or basically washing methodically with a non-scented cleanser before baiting the hook. Remember this when using any bait or lure including live baits.
Numerous fish in this category, such as tuna, tailor, mackerel and kingfish, feed aggressively on small live fish. The mulloway is a good example of fish in this group. Mulloway are usually far more ready to take any bait that is alive, and as they mature, their diet comprises larger fish such as tailor, mullet and mackerel.
Some predators such as john dory and yellowtail kingfish have essentially no teeth and must consequently gulp their live prey whole. This kind of toothless predator typically swallows a baitfish head first, making it easier for the unfortunate prey to pass down the gullet of the predator. It therefore makes sense to hook live bait near to the head, rather than close the tail, while hook location must often be determined more by the feasibility of the fishing situations.
What Size Livie Should be Used?
The size of a baitfish can differ from a small minnow used to trap a trout, to a 6 or 10kg tuna used as bait for a marlin or shark. In saltwater, the smaller live fish used as bait includes pilchards, whitebait, yellowtail, anchovies, garfish , slimy mackerel, herring and the juvenile forms of many bigger fish. Live fish are less often deployed in freshwater, although big fish experts chasing cod, trout, redfin or barra know the worth of minnows, herring, mullet, goldfish and the like.
Baitfish may be netted, trapped or essentially fished for with a hook and line. Most of the smaller baitfish can be kept alive in a tank or drum with regular water changes and preferably some form of aerator pump to help oxygenate the water. The larger and more active baitfish is also more problematic to keep alive and fewer may be stored in a container of a given size. Vary energetic baits like tuna and some mackerel are almost impossible to keep alive and should be used directly after capture. An cheap hand scoop net will occasionally take a good amount of anchovy’s pilchard’s whitebait and garfish in the shallows of estuaries. Good practices are to berley with stale bread and wait until the fish start feeding over the top of the net. Then when they are in position, quickly lift the net. A cast net can be flung into the shallows and brought back to shore with a supply of hardy heads, yellowtail and other top baitfish. However, some state legislation excludes the use of cast nets, so check with your local tackle shop or fishing agency. The same applies to the very effective fine mesh drag net used by many tropical anglers.
Yellowtail also known as Yakkers, bung or chow are viewed as one of the best live baits for many species, from John Dory to large game fish. Yellow tail are typically not too hard to catch as they gather in large numbers in the estuaries, harbours and bays typically around docks, jetty pileons and moorings. Once an appropriate spot has been found, you should berley with soaked bread or shredded potato to bring the yellowtail on the bite. A light line and a size 10-12 long shank hook baited with a small piece of prawn or fish flesh will typically capture yellowtail, though in hard fished areas greater success can be found by using mincemeat as bait. The fish should be handled with care when removed from the water. Their ventral and anal spines can inflict a horrid wound, so beware! It is possible to keep yellowtail alive for relatively long periods in an appropriate live bait tank mainly if the water is aerated and changed regularly.
Larger fish will grab a yellowtail head first, so the hook should be threaded through the fish at the point high in the back just behind the head. It is imperative that the hook is positioned between the top of the fish’s back and its lateral fin. If the hook pierces below this area the bait will not live long. A really big yellowtail one measuring 25 cm or more demands the use of a 6/0 to 10/0 size hook. Medium sized yellowtail (18-25cm) should be baited on size 4/0 to 70/ hooks. Small yakkas (10 to 18cm) may demand hooks as small as 2/0 to 4/0.
Yellowtail can also be used live as troll baits. One way to rig the fish is to basically push the hook through from under the bottom jaw and have it emerge through the jaw. A better way is to tie thread onto a needle through the eye sockets of the fish and back over the point of the hook. The same method called bridle rigging, works well with slimy mackerel and larger baits such as frigate mackerel and striped tuna.
Importance of Presentation
In the preparation and presentation of any live fish, there are a number of aspects to keep in mind. Firstly, most fish will avoid any bait that is unaccustomed to them in shape, movement and smell. The bait should always be presented in such a way that it looks natural, yet injured and distressed. In baiting a live fish try to ensure that it is not damaged and that its natural movements are only limited to a minor degree. In this way it will stay alive as long as possible, yet still give off those predatory attracting flashers and vibrations.
Advantages of Live Baiting
While fishing with live baits may require extra equipment and effort the benefits are that it allows an angler to capture larger fish and a greater range of species. Live baiting often works better if you berley heavily with minced fish, mostly the oilier fish varieties. Keep a constant slick in the water and the current will do the rest, leading the fish right back to your baits. This combination of berleying and live baiting is the method used to great results by so many sport and game fishermen.