Preserved baits for use in the sea are a mixed bunch, with a mixed reputation to match. Most of them are good only as a stop-gap, but some can work very well for certain species.
There are three main ways to preserve baits – salting, pickling in various preserving liquids, and freezing. Each can have their use in sea fishing.
Pickled worm flavour
Salting and pickling often produce baits which verge on the useless but that is because they are used in situations where they are unlikely to score. Pickled baits are a familiar sight in the tackle shop, but they rarely seem to produce. However, pickled sandeels and rag-worms can be effective used as sight baits — spun or freelined for pollack and bass. Use them as a stationary bottom bait, relying on scent attraction however, and you’ll get very poor results,
Salted baits are even less common, but some anglers salt lugworm, especially yel-lowtail and black lug – blow lug don’t keep well. To prepare salted worms, simply gut them and lay them out on newspaper. Sprinkle with salt and roll up the paper. They can be useful to eke out a meagre supply of fresh worms, especially from a boat.
Freezing is the easiest and best way to keep bait, efficiently preserving some of its scent and attractive qualities as long as you follow a few rules. 1. Treat bait as you would your own food – keep your freezer clean and hygienic. 2. Don’t refreeze thawed bait – as a general rule fish don’t like rancid food. 3. For the same reason, keep to the freezer shelf life limit. Baits deteriorate in the freezer, so it’s important to freeze and use them in strict rotation.
Most sea fishing baits freeze quite well if you take proper care.
Blow lug are an exception as they are about 75% water. Black lug are tougher and freeze down better.
Squid freezes well – Calamari squid comes frozen. Fresh squid and cuttlefish are usually much bigger. Gut and cut them £ into smaller pieces before you freeze them. Peeler crabs must be frozen when they are just about to shed their shell. Remove all the shell, gills and internal carapace and wash the soft body thoroughly. Wrap each crab individually in foil and freeze as rapidly as possible. Put them on a metal tray inside the freezer as this conducts the cold to the crabs very rapidly. Freeze sandeels in the same way – individually on a metal tray in the freezer. Mussels freeze down very well. Shell them and freeze in bags of a dozen or so. Other shellfish, such as razorfish and queen cockles, freeze better if you blanch them first. It toughens them up so they come out of the freezer firm. To blanch, just pour boiling water over them, then wrap a few at a time in foil or film before freezing. Mackerel flesh also freezes, but loses much of its firmness in the process. To improve the texture, fillet the fish and lightly salt each fillet before freezing.
Sometimes frozen baits outperform fresh baits. This is usually because as a frozen bait thaws in the water, it releases its juices much faster than a fresh bait.
Dabs, whiting and pouting can prefer frozen lug, coalies love frozen peeler and mussel, and doggies go wild over frozen sandeel. On the down side, frozen baits become washed out more quickly than fresh so they don’t fish as effectively for as long.
Frozen squid works for many species — either whole Calamari for cod, bass and conger, or as a tipping bait for smaller species. Used properly, preserved baits needn’t be just a stop-gap; they can sometimes be effective fish catchers as well.