Best Baits - Mussels
Part one in a series, by Phil Ellerton, on the best baits to use in Tasmanian waters.
As anglers, we don't often utilise out natural bait resources, than can often be readily found and gathered along many of our coastal ledges and reefs.
In Tasmanian waters the Blue Mussel is one of my favourite baits. Mussels are one of those baits that are easily accessible and most importantly constantly available.
I have been given the impression that anglers simply don't use Mussels because they are messy and often don't stay on the hook. The point is that the humble mussel is great bait and will catch a wide variety of different species.
The first step is to gather the bait therefore low tide is essential. A suggestion is to use sturdy gloves when gathering mussels of the rocks. This is because of the sharp edges, which believe me can inflict some nasty wounds. After carefully scooping out the mussel from its shell the mussel should be kept as full and natural as possible. Note that it often helps to leave a little bit of mussel on it's shell as it will stay on the hook a little better.
The Mussel shells also make for suitable berley with the crushed shells working as a fish attractor with the silver shiny shell glistening on its descent to the bottom. With the smaller Mussels gathered that are too small for bait, theses are also good for berley when crushed and thrown in the water.
Almost any fish species will readily accept a well presented mussel working for both pelagic and bottom feeding fish. Species which I have personally has success with are: bream, whiting, flathead, cod, trevally, perch, mullet, trumpeter, mackerel and even species as rare as sea run trout.
Normally when fishing for bream I use mussels as my first choice of bait. I have found a lot of the time bream will be extremely cautious being reluctant to take any bait presented although nevertheless will accept the humble mussel.
I have found that mussels are a good bait for the sand whiting, that enter a lot of our Tasmanian bays and estuaries.
Rigging and Gear
Simple spinning gear is all that is required when targeting fish with mussels. I prefer to use as light a line as possible, fishing from 1 kg to 3 kg. I will normally use a heavier piece of leader attached to the hook, preferring 4kg line. A rod of length between 6-9ft is all that is needed. Thread line (spinning) reels are the easiest to use especially when fishing such light line with little casting weight. Often I don't use any sinker, simply floating the mussel down naturally, therefore it can be taken either on the surface, mid water or on the bottom. If I use a sinker at all I use a running ball sinker, remember to use as little weight as possible. In regards to hooks I go no smaller than a size 8 and no larger than a size 4. I use the red chemically sharpened Gamakatsu, octopus hooks.