Attracting fish with berley

‘Berley’ is a mix of fish food items dispersed into the water to attract fish to the area you’re fishing—and keeping them there. It’s as useful for kids fishing jetties as it is for experienced gamefishers chasing big tuna off the continental shelf.

You can make it yourself from bait and fish scraps, bread and tuna oil, or you can purchase pre-made berley from your local tackle store. It’s best to use a mixture that can be mashed into fine particles that, when dispersed, creates a ‘misty’ type trail in the current so as to entice the fish, but not feed them—you want them to stay hungry enough to eat your bait or lure.

A controlled, slow, constant release into the surrounding water is more effective than bulk bombing. This is easy to achieve if you use a commercially made berley container, or it can be as simple as a milk bottle full of holes hanging on a string. Most fishing situations will benefit from berley, so give it a go next time you’re on the water. And remember: if you’re berleying while baitfishing, make sure your berley contains some scraps from the very bait you’re using.

Finding live bait

Using live bait is arguably the best way to maximise your chances of catching fish. You still have to fish in the right place at the right time of the tide, but when all variables are equal, live bait usually wins.

The benefits of learning how and where to catch live baits extend beyond having a fresh, wriggly offering that is more appealing than a frozen bait. Once you know where to find live bait, you’ll know where to fish, because predatory fish will be in the vicinity for the same reasons as you.

That fact leads to the most important part of gathering fresh bait: do so where you will be fishing. This will guarantee you’re using baits that local fish like to eat, are fresher and more active than baits that have spent a morning in transit.

Remember when gathering bait: only ever take enough for your immediate needs, you can always catch more if you run out.

Using live bait

Live bait is arguably the most effective bait because in many fishing scenarios, nothing beats the real thing. Core to this method’s success is the ‘live’ factor, so it’s therefore critical you handle and store your baits in a manner conducive to longevity. Live bait care starts at capture. Use long-shank hooks to avoid handling fish; this style of hook makes it easy to shake the bait off directly into your live bait tank or bucket without touching it.

Also limit your need to put a hand into the tank or bucket. The water must be kept as clean as possible to maintain the bait’s health and your hands may carry traces of sunscreen, dirt, soap or fuel. To retrieve a bait, use a small scoop net, like the kind commonly sold for use in domestic fish tanks.

Round or oval shaped buckets and tanks are best because they don’t have corners for fish to nose into. If your live bait tank doesn’t have an automatic fill and flow device, use an aerator and change the water at least every half hour. This ensures clean water and reduces the chance of heat damaging baits.