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SoCal Live Bait
To the Southern California small boat angler live bait is an angling must. Fortunately for us there exists services that provide a variety of live baits. The most common baits available are the anchovies, brown bait and sardines. They are purchased from bait receiver barges for about $30.00 per scoop. Anchovies are the most popular of all the live baits available. Itąs a small bait compared to others, reaching at the most to 6 inches. Clearly, they are most effective presented alive but they are also sold frozen and salted. They're captured daily year round, by commercial boats using round haul nets. Each morning the catch is deposited in bait receivers located in strategic locations for sale to boaters.
Sportboats take on massive amounts of anchovies. Their bait tanks are large and hold over fifty scoops, which they throw over board mostly for chum in a days fishing. A small portion of them are hook bait in comparison to the amount they throw over for chum. Small boats usually hold one to three scoops and chumming has to be very selective. Most anglers have to fight the desire to overload their bait tank. It's much better to have a hooked feisty anchovy ripping off line than one on its side looking up at you. So don't overload the tank.
When the time comes to place a hook in the bait certain procedures have to be followed. It is done in various ways with the goal mainly to keep their scales intact and to keep them as lively as possible, so do not squeeze them. Three popular ways are used to hook anchovies. The most popular is the nose hook. The hook is inserted from the bottom of the jaw up through a point mid way between the eye and the tip of the nose. The main objective is to keep the penetration towards the tip of the nose. Insertion near the eye will immediately kill the bait. Nose hooking allows you to "pump" the bait back in a tantalizing way, which is what the aggressive barracuda and other pelagics like the most.
Collar hooking the anchovy is the most effective way for fly line presentation. The bait is more active and swims with a less restricted attitude than the nose hooked bait. Sinkers can cause the collar hooked bait to pull sideways in an unnatural way and the same occurs when you try to pump the bait. But finicky bonita, bass and yellowtail really prefer the fly line method.
Tail hooking the anchovy is the least desirable method. There isnąt anywhere to place the hook for stability and many times itąs thrown off during the cast. The importance of this method is that sometimes the anchovy will plummet straight down and for some reason attract prey that wont bite with the other methods. Blue fin tuna sometimes will congregate around a boat so thick you could walk on them but they wont bite any bait with a hook in it, except a 3 inch tail hooked anchovy heading straight down.
Brown bait is caught incidentally with the anchovies especially when the nets are set in shallow waters. Most brown baits live in shallow sand bottom and the most desirable baits are the herring (queenfish) and tom cod (white croaker). Boat owners have to request the barge operators to dig them out from under the anchovies which they donąt like to do. Occasionally the brown bait has been separated and the charge can be less than the the anchovy purchase.
Brown bait is very tough and not many are thrown off with the cast. Calico bass and sand bass prefer brown bait over anchovies and halibut prefer a 5 inch herring over all the other baits. For bass they should be presented fly lined or with a small slip sinker. Halibut want them directly on the bottom so you need appropriate heavier sinkers. Anglers should always place some brown bait in their bait tanks. Many times they attract the big ones when all else fails.
Sardines have been severely depleted for the last forty years and at one time lost the interest of the commercial fishermen. Lately they are showing again in massive numbers like in "the old days" and are becoming readily available for the anglers. There isnąt a bait swimming that can attract the big ones like a sardine. Their quickness and agility always gets the attention of all the game fishes especially the "silver giant" called the white sea bass. You can nose hook them the traditional way or sideways through the nostrils but they swim downwards more often hooked through the pelvic fins if thatąs what is needed. They can be found sometimes mixed with the anchovies but they are always the small size of the anchovies. The best overall size is about 6 inches. But It really doesnąt matter all the game fish will jump on them from 3 inches to 14 inches long. They are truly one of the best baits going.
There are other live baits for the Southern California angler but usually are not available at the receivers except for live squid which is available sometimes through the winter and early spring months. No doubt these are the number one choice of most anglers. Pacific mackerel and jack mackerel (spanish mackerel)
Added: Mon Apr 28 2008
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