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Proper Handling of Live Bait Will Save You Money


Proper handling of Live bait will save you money
Here s the scoop

The majority of live bait fishing off the Southern California coastline and its nearby islands is done using anchovies, -mackerel or squid. However, the last few seasons have seen an increasing number of the once-popular and abundant bait fish, the sardine, in the bait receivers. While anchovies are the most popular live bait available to the small boater due to their easy availability at the local bait barge or receiver located in most of the harbors up and down the coast, they are also a very fragile little fish.

There are several simple techniques to keep your live bait in good shape. First, when purchasing live bait from your local supplier you want to be sure that you are getting the best bait available and that it's being handled property.

Bait is sold by the scoop. What is a scoop? A scoop of bait is a -very unscientific way of measuring the amount of bait you will receive for your money. A scoop is not based on a given number of bait in the net, or on the size of bait on any given day or on the weight of the scoop. A scoop of bait will vary greatly from the time of year, day of week, amount of bait in the receivers, which marina you are in to who you know.

If a receiver only has a given amount of bait and it's mid-summer weekend with hundreds of boats buying bait, your one scoop tank will now hold three scoops of bait. On the other hand, buying bait in the middle of the winter on a weekday where there might be only a handful of boats all week and the receiver is full of bait, odds are you will get more quality bait than you can use.

A full scoop of bait, under average conditions, should be two passes with a full 15-foot transfer net. Prices vary A little from one location to another due to the availability of bait, season and the distance the bait boat must travel. Expect to pay $8412 for a half scoop to $15-$20 for a full scoop of anchovies.

In the spring time, look for bait balls of anchovies being pushed up by bonito. The east end of Catalina Island is a great location. If you can slide your boat into these bait balls, try using a 15-inch diameter fine mesh transfer net to scoop your own bait. Under these conditions your two scoop tank will easily hold four full scoops. Quality bait can be packed tighter. This bait will be in excellent shape, it will be real slimy and healthy. It will ball up close to the bottom of the tank and swim in a tight school. You can't compare this bait with receiver bait.

On the other hand, with your typical summer time bait, you should load your bait tank lighter to ensure more live bait once you reach your fishing destination. Warmer water is hard on bait, summer bait will be smaller and of less quality than winter bait. The bait will have been packed tighter in the nets when it was caught, packed too tight in the bait boat and packed too tight in the receiver when they store it. This bait will "roller over" or die more quickly.

Try to arrive at the bait dock before the "fleet" arrives. This may, mean going a little earlier but will give the, guys working the receiver more time to. spend with you. 'try asking for "cured bait!' Cured bait has - been in the receiver for a few days, has gotten used to being captive and has settled down. A greater percentage of this bait will survive. If buying a couple of scoops of bait, ask the bait attendant to make several passes with the net instead of a couple of full scoops. It's easier on the bait.

There are mixed reviews on the importance of using a bait light in your tank at night. Some anglers feel it's a must while others have been successful without any lights. The theory is, in a dark tank, the bait will injure themselves since they can't see the sides of the tank. Positioning a light over the tank or bait bag will work.

Getting your anchovies out of the tank properly is an important step. Select the best "hook bait" before dipping the net into the tank. Look for that anchovy with a green back, that's a strong swimmer without a red nose or eyes. Only net a few anchovies from the top of the tank trying to avoid netting any more bait than you need. Use a net that is deep enough to ensure that the baits wouldn't jump out onto the deck.

Also, you will be able to get your hand into the net making it easier to pick up the bait. Cup your hand slightly, holding the bait in the palm of your hand, when picking out a bait from the dip net. Avoid grappling or squeezing a live bait. Return all unused baits immediately to the tank or use them for chum. Use the smaller baits "pinheads" and all dead bait for chum. As the bait dies off, it will sink to the bottom of the tank. To keep the other bait healthy, use your hands and pick out the dead bait as needed throughout the day. Avoid "digging" into a tank with the net for any reason as it will injure a lot of bait.

If you make mackerel, remember to avoid touching them. Proper technique is to unhook or shake them off directly into t he bait tank.-Use the old buffer knife trick when unhooking mackerel. Don't let them hit the deck or boat.

To keep your live bait in good shape don't overload your bait tank. If you must have extra bait, put it in a bucket and use it as chum. When traveling to your fishing area, avoid high speed running if the water is rough or there's a large swell running. Treating your bait with care will enhance your odds - of arriving on the fishing grounds with quality bait in the bait tank.

Trailer Boating Tip. If you must leave your vehicle on the ramp when launching, set the parking brake, block the wheels, and set the transmission in "park" or low gear.

Mike Bales is a small boat owner and angler in Southern California and Mexico. He is an active member in two Baja clubs. His column appears every other week. To contact Bales in regard to his column or to order his book, Launch Ramps of Baja California, $8.9955 including postage, write to PO. Box 2806-311, Torrance, CA 90509-2806.

WON Trailer boating

by Mike Bales


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