Best Baits - Pretty fish

by Philip Ellerton

At this time of year, most budding trout anglers are right back into the swing of things. That is not only the freshwater anglers but also the saltwater enthusiasts. That is why this issue I have decided to discuss pretty fish, pretty fish being a commonly and very effectively used bait catching a variety of species from sea-run trout to salmon, bream and flathead.



The gathering of pretty fish whether it be catching them yourself or buying them from your local tackle shop, it is not quite as easy as it sounds, with these numbers being scarce at various times of the year. If collecting your own pretty fish, take into account the inland and sea fisheries regulations when it comes to net size and amounts.

I find the easiest alternative is to buy pretty fish from your local tackle shop. The best way to buy them is on a slab or card, where they are carefully laid out, individually and lightly salted down to assist in preserving. The way each pretty fish is in A1 condition, remaining perfectly straight and life like.

When some anglers use whole fish baits they automatically decapitate the baitfish's head and use it as berley. Pretty fish are only small and I prefer to keep them as natural as possible, using them whole.

An interesting technique that can be used with pretty fish is the method of spinning pretty fish. It is simply what the explanation suggests. The spinning of pretty fish is based on the same principal as standard spinning, although you replace the lure with a pretty fish. This is a very affective method when targeting finicky and more challenging species, which are intimidated by big lures. This is what a well presented, light weight pretty fish is perfect for with it most likely closely resembling the prey that the species are feeding on.

Rigging and gear

The main objective is the present the pretty fish as naturally as possible, therefore a simple floating rig is most practical. Most of the fish that are being targeted will be pelagic feeding species, that is they feed on the surface or at least mid water moving fish so as little weight as possible on the rig is better. A mentioned in previous articles - fish as light as possible id the key. Light line on a standard spinning outfit is quite sufficient. Although take into account that a slightly heavier monofilament leader of 8-12 lb will minimise bust offs. Another small tip that will always benefit your performance is to make sure that there is ample line on your spool. If a reel is correctly spooled with plenty of line it should help in casting light weight baits such as pretty fish.

To allow your pretty fish to swim as effectively as possible, the less bulk and weight that you add to the rig the better. A small hook size 6 or 8 is all that is needed, chemically sharpened hooks being the most effective. The reason being their sharp point's easily protrude through the pretty fish's mouth creating as little damage as possible.

For this same reason octopus hooks are better than bait holder.

Points to note

Fly rods can also be used to cast pretty fish, in this case a fresh bait is naturally too soft, so preserved pretty fish is more preferable, being stronger in the flesh. The rig is simple, exchanging a fly for a pretty fish. A level fly line is used and a slow action rod is preferred. A long cast spool, with plenty of line will help casting light weight baits.

Slightly longer than average spinning rods assist in casting into head winds, keeping fish out of snags and if flexible enough, feeding soft bites.

Target species

Almost any species of fish will accept a pretty fish. Pretty fish are one of the most commonly preyed on bait fish. Pretty fish are most commonly used for sea-run trout, which venture up the various Tasmanian estuaries and rivers, between July and the end of the year. Whilst spinning for sea-runners it is quite common to also pick up bream, mullet, salmon (both Australian and Atlantic), flathead, cod and even surprise catches like juvenile blue grenadier. In the majority of East Coast rivers (especially the Swan and Scamander river) pretty fish are a top bait for large bream, normally used in conjunction with prawns. When cast out and left on the bottom, pretty fish will often be picked up by flathead and salmon. Sometimes, although not as often mackerel, warheou (snotties) and silver trevally will take the bait. When used out of the boat pretty fish will catch cod, flathead, large whiting and gurnard with the chance of picking up the odd squid or octopus. If out in deeper water and not fishing on the bottom, a vulnerable floating pretty fish could be swiped by a blue-throat wrasse or barracouta. 

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