With the school holidays over and the kids back to school - it is time to assess the damage that Christmas and the festive season has done to your wallet. The rain has eased, the river has returned to it’s clean, green colour and beckons subtly to me as more and more fish are weighed in at the shop. So, what better way to help your own bank balance than to find some free bait in the local rivers, and then head out for a cheap fishing expedition!
Finally the scorching summer sun and surging forces of big tides have enticed schools of baitfish and prawns into the rivers. All live and fresh bait available for purchase in local bait and tackle stores would have been caught by a licensed professional in the immediate area or not too far away. Catching bait takes skills and a lot of hard work if you are planning on making it your livelihood. However, with a small investment in the tools of the trade, plenty of practice and perseverance - you too can catch enough bait for your recreational fishing needs.
The easiest and cost-free option is to seek out Soldier crabs along the mud flats and sand bars on low tide in local creeks and rivers. The distinctive blue body on the 1.5cm wide crustacean is the best way to identify them. Be quick to scoop up some before they burrow into the sand. You can still dig them out of the sand, just look for hundreds of little holes in the sand - but who really likes getting down on their hands and knees! Soldier crabs are a tried and tested favourite bait for whiting, but they are also a scrumptious snack to bream, grunter, flathead, trevally and even dart if used on in the surf. The key is to use more than one on a long shank hook - I usually place at least three on at once, straight through the middle of their body.
Another free option is pippies-requiring little more effort than some bending over and a casual stroll along the beach. Pippies as we call them in Queensland are also known as Cockles, Eugaries and Surf Clams. They are thick fleshy bait encased by two shells - meaning you need a knife to pry apart the shells to actually get to the bait. The best places these days for Pippies include the NE tip of Bribie, Yaroomba, the more secluded beaches in Noosa National Park and North Shore to Double Island. Pippies are mainly used in surf gutters, by placing a whole Pippy on the hook to target whiting, dart, bream and occasionally tailor.
For a small investment of less than $50 you can start targeting Yabbies with your own yabbie pump. Pumps come in two sizes: regular and king-size. Anyone who is approaching 6foot should take the king-size. Yabbies can generally be found in canal systems of most rivers. Also try North Shore of the Maroochy River and either side of McKenzie's bridge on low tide. Pumping yabbies on the sand flats at low tide can be as much fun as fishing itself. Yabbies (like fresh prawn or worm) present well on a size 4 long shank or bait holder style hook, with size 0-3 sinker depending on the tide. Keep running sinkers set up with 60cm of leader between the hook and swivel and light line on a whippy rod also helps to target the bread and butter species such as whiting, bream, flathead and golden trevally.
If you have a bit more money to your name post Christmas, then I suggest shelling out from $50 to $100 for a cast net. Cast nets, provided they are rinsed after use and stored well, will last for many years. They are the essential element for the angler who likes to use live herring or prawns. Both baits move up and down the river systems on a high tide in large schools. And at present, most of the live prawns, herring and mullet are moving in the deeper waters and are hard to get to by foot/bank.
If you own a boat – fantastic, just keep your eyes peeled for birds circling and the water bubbling as though it was on the boil. If you are boat-less, then we are here to help! Swan Boat Hire has put some cost-saving deals on our facebook page - www.facebook.com/boathire for printing and redeeming before Easter. Check them out!
Swan Boat Hire team member Tate begins to show us how he gathers the net.
A solid cast!
This cast is right ontop of the school of herring.
Retrieving the net to see what has been entangled in it.
Good size herring that would entice any hungry bream, flathead, jew, jack or cod! Well done Tate.