What's the best bait?
In the popularity stakes, the number one slot swings between pilchards and squid, often for no apparent reason. The New Zealand blue pilchard is small, fast growing and found midwater and surface in coastal waters. Bream Bay is likely the home of the ones in our freezer. Premium grade NZ pilchards are oiler and have been individually quick frozen (IQF), so stay on the hook. They don't look like a fishcake of mush in the box, or fly into bits when you cast, like imported baits that have travelled the world, Pilchard sizes vary from different hauls, so stock if you find, and want smaller ones to use during winter. Squid also come in different sizes: whole Loligo baby squid, or the larger Arrow ones that you cut to bait-size. Whole piper, which have been hard to get of late, are the best for bigger snapper. Use them whole, and hang on. Mullet is oily, tough and stays on the hook. But, unlike pilchards, it's difficult to dress for natural presentation as it's a cut bait. Jack mackerel and blue mackerel are whopper snapper baits. Fresh-frozen ones will stay on the hook, or catch your own. Bonito/skipjack tuna are a floating oil slick. Good condition skippys will stay on the hook and pre-salted bonito is a good choice for surfcasting. Another good trick for surfcasting is a baby squid "turducken": a baby Loligo squid stuffed with bonito or pilchard. It will stay on the hook and have some grease! Buy New Zealand pilchards. They have travelled fewer miles and they are good for our economy. So what's the best frozen bait? The one they are eating on the day.
Burley Chumming or berley as we call it here, is a recipe for success. Ground up fish by-products generally constitute a berley bomb. Frozen bombs range in size from 1.5 to the big bertha 8kg bombs. Berley bombs can contain anything scraped up from the fish factory floor, all blood and guts. Sophisticated bombs contain a healthy mix of Mussel, pilchard, salmon or skipjack, often the minced in a bologanise of unidentifiable mush. Good berley should be oily as this carries on the current to attract fish and also triggers them to feed. To much berley is not always a good thing, if you give too much you are feeding the fish, effectively becoming your own competition. Chumming is mostly done at anchor, or land based, the key is to make sure you are actually fishing in the berley line, wind and tide direction can sometimes have you fishing in empty spot. Attracting and triggering the fish to start feed is the what i's all about, after a few hours of constant chumming the fish should bite inhibited in a frenzy…or not Berley is often set just of the bottom and dropped in a weighted pot or cage with holes to let the ooze out slowly. In shallow water a transom mounted berley pot with a masher works treat, with the added bonus of the smell on a hot day. There is also an etiquette to chumming, if you suspect a boat is the chumming, don't anchor directly behind it , you likely will be right in there berley trail and become the recipient of some colorful sign language. One thing is for sure, if you want to catch more fish at anchor it pays to broadcast your presence, get good oily berley apply sparringly and hang on.