Berley Cages – How to Make Berley Sinkers and Berley Mixtures
By Stephen Coote
Berley attracts fish. The fisher who uses it will generally have more success than the one who doesn’t, all other things being equal. To me, berley isn’t just ground bait. It’s more subtle than that. Rather than a heap of fish carcasses thrown overboard, berley is a finer substance which stimulates the fish to take your bait. Let’s take a look at berley and berley cages. The later you can make yourself quite easily in your garage or shed.
There are two basic kinds of berley I’ve had experience with. One consists of things like minced fish offal, and other uses pollard of something similar as it’s base. Anything goes of course, and other fishers will come up with a variety of recipes.
Offal berley can be frozen in a container. This container can be punctured and lowered to the sea bed on a rope, where it slowly releases a stream of delicious odours. If you don’t want to use a homemade container, some good commercial ones are available.
Another good way to dispense berley is to wrap it in a light paper, along with a rock for weight, and drop it overboard. The paper soon falls to bits and releases its goodies.
Berley can be spread by the handful, but my favourite way of using it is in fishing line devices. These may be purchased or home-made. I’ve had good results with homebrewed wire berley cages, but I’ll come back to these later.
Meal-based berley can be bought ready-made, or you can mix it yourself. The first berley I made consisted of a bucketful of pollard and a cupful of cooking oil. This was given the right consistency with the addition of seawater. I was pleased with the way it worked. When used in a cage, berley should be just wet enough to hold together when squeezed: not too dry, not too sloppy.
Pollard (preferably), or it’s courser cousin bran, can be purchased from stock-feed outlets. It should cost less than a dollar per kilogram. Bulk bran sold for human consumption varies in price, but it is an option.
Pollard is a good berley base but chicken mash, pelletized stock feed or even crushed dog biscuits should give results. I’ve used wholemeal flour and breadcrumbs but found they don’t break up and disperse as readily as pollard. All sorts of additives can be used. Fish oil is a common one. You can buy this on its own, or use the juice from a can of sardines. The oil used for cooking meat or fish can be recycled into the berley. You might like to add a few drops of a patent lure or experiment with oil of aniseed and other plant extracts. Minced shellfish and crayfish mustard (guts) are two things I’m going to try next.
How to make berley cages
A berley cage is like a spring with an eye on each end. Berley is squeezed into the cage and slowly disperses from it when placed in water. jiggling the line speeds the process. Variations of the berley cage are the berley ﬂoat and the berley sinker. A berley float is made from plastic or wood. A heavier ﬂoat can aid casting. A fisher who has the desire and a few tools should be able to make berley ﬂoats.
A berley sinker is a cage attached to a weight. The accompanying photo shows one with some lead cast around the end of the cage.
The plain berley cage is attached to the fishing line. l usually have it above my hook. Wherever possible I keep things light and simple by not using a sinker.
The photo shows four stages in making a berley cage. I use a piece of tube to form the cage around. In this case, the tube is 15 mm copper water pipe. The tube has a small slot cut in the end to hold the wire.
I make cages about 18mm in diameter and about 60mm long. For this, I use a piece of soft galvanised steel wire about 600mm long and 1.2 mm in diameter. There are no cage making rules though – a fisher can use whatever is at hand and make it any convenient size. I like to use soft steel because it is easier to work with and because any cages I leave on the seabed will eventually rust away. The shiny wire should be avoided because something like a barracouta is bound to bite it off.
More on using berley and ground bait.
The first instalment of a Bait Basics series of PFTV clips hosted by Gary Brown. Berley is a great way to improve your results when fishing in a variety of situations, not only is it effective but it’s also a lot of fun in itself. Gary goes through his berley technique when fishing estuaries and inshore bays for species like bream, whiting, trevally and the like.