Buying Frozen Bait
The convenience of buying bait from the local tackle shop freezer is a real boon to the busy angler. However, there are good and not so good packages in the freezer cabinet. The secret with buying frozen bait is to ensure that the product is well packed, and buy the best type of bait for the fishing style being undertaken.
A close look at the product can be very revealing. Prawns that are not a good deep green, or have black colouration around where the head joins the body, should be avoided. If the prawns look dry and broken, they may also be second rate. Look at them as they thaw and remember what good bait looks like, as well as the bad ones.
With pilchards, blue bait, white bait, garfish and similar small soft baits, always make sure the bait is bright and shiny with a clear eye and firm scale pattern. Faults to look for are a slight rip or tear around the abdomen or ruptured stomach cavities. This is a sure sign that the bait is off. Look at packs for "broken" fish. This reveals bad handling and could cost a lot in useless pieces.
Tougher whole fish baits like yellowtail do keep well, but are mostly caught by prawn trawlers. This means they are fairly badly handled, both at capture and prior to freezing. Yellowtail seems to look secondhand from most freezers. Look carefully before you buy.
Frozen worms do work, but not nearly as well as the real thing. The trick when using them is to make the fish think they are still alive by moving them slowly across the bottom. This particularly applies when fishing for whiting or Flathead.
Whole large fish such as bonito, tuna, mullet and mackerel are good bait, but need to be carefully handled by those packing them. Again, check that they look bright and shiny with a clear eye. Whole fish may be firm when frozen, but anglers rely on them being in good shape when they thaw out as well. If the fish are soft and fall to bits on the hook, they are next to useless.
Preserved and frozen fillets of the same large fish baits are often better value than whole baits. The fillets are usually at their best after being salted or brined. This toughens them up, yet they remain highly attractive to the fish. Note that baits treated with brine or salt will sometimes stay a little bit soft even though frozen. This is caused by the salt and does not mean the bait will thaw out soft. Salt water usually freezes at a much lower temperature than fresh water.
Among the most popular frozen baits are the Pilchard. These are sold in great numbers across the country and are an ideal bait for several species of fish such as Tailor, Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna and Snapper.
Squid is one bait that freezes exceptionally well and it seems to retain most of its attractiveness to fish. The small bottle squid are best, as they can be fished whole and there are usually quite a few baits in each pack. Again, most of the squid are caught by prawn trawlers and unfortunately the quality varies greatly. Look for that nice white colour. Really good baits will have the outer lining of tiny black dots still intact on their skin.
If a packet of bait from the freezer is poor, then it is most likely all the packets of that particular stock will be in bad shape. Look carefully and make another selection. Like any form of purchase, don't be afraid to take your custom elsewhere if a shop has ordinary bait and gives bad service.
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