everything you need to know about BAIT...
Razorfish photo courtesy of Dr Keith Hiscock
A wide variety of shellfish are used as baits in Ireland. Chief amongst these are the razorfish
(top right), clams, limpets, mussels, cockles and winkles. The
razorfish and clams have to be dug out - although there are a few tricks! - whereas the others are collected from around tidal rock pools.
Collection: Razorfish are found on sandy beaches, and the key item is a squeezy washing up liquid bottle filled with heavily salted water. Find the keyhole shaped depression in the sand, sqeeze in a far splosh of the salt water, keep going and then run back to the start. A few minutes later up they pop, ready to feed on the incoming tide... They slip down fast, so be ready to collect them quickly! Clams are found in muddy estuaries and mudflats, and their depth depends on the conditions in each locations. They are dug up with a fork using the traditional trench digging technique described for lug and rag. Mussels grow in large rafts or beds, tacked onto the rocks by incredibly strong stringy threads. Most tidal rock pools will have some mussels but the largest are closest to the sea. They are difficult to collect and small relative to the size of the shells, but on occassion they will work where all else has failed. This is particularly true of the beaches in Wicklow (don't ask me why!). Limpets are easily collected with a strong penknife from off the rocks around and in tidal pools. If they are exposed to the air, dribble some water over them and this will make them relax, again like the razorfish, fooling them by mimicing an incoming tide.
Storage: The beauty about all shellfish is that they come in their own air tight containers and as such storage for a day or two is easy. To freeze them you need to boil them in water for a minute or two, remove the shells, and freeze them individually on a plate of glass, before bagging them in small packets for longer storage. Freezing them on the glass makes them easy to remove and bag, otherwise it's a mess!
Bait Presentation: Bait presentation with any shellfish is not easy. Razorfish have a muscular foot but soft innards. The same holds for all of the shellfish listed here, to a greater or lesser extent, and in the case of limpets, the muscular foot on its own is a useless bait. In all cases, you need to use the muscular foot to secure the bait to the hook(s), and use shirring elastic to whip the softer parts (with the scent trail) to the hook and foot. Wide gape hooks tend to work best for bulkier baits, akin to crab, but I have seen people whip razorfish in particular onto long shanked hooks. The trick is to keep the innards on the hook, with lots of elastic!
Rigs or Traces: There is no particular rig to use for these baits, albeit most utilise a legering design.
Fish Species: Since the baits are typically found on the shoreline, they are used primarily for fish species caught from the shore. Flatfish, bass, dogs, even whiting, pouting, coalies, pollock, codling and wrasse have been known to succumb to these scented baits.