Mussels Make the Best Bait
by Barrie Clark
“Let’s go and gather some mussels,” suggested Butch. We’ll go fishing after tea and they’ll be great bait!”
I quickly agreed and soon we were rowing across the calm, sunlit water towards a small point along the shore of Onahau Bay, off the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound.
We were staying at Butch’s family’s bach, set in punga-dominated native bush on a terrace overlooking the jade depths of The Anchorage, and had been enjoying catching a few cod and the odd kahawai, snapper or tarakihi over the small reefs in the area.
After another relaxing and sun-soaked day, we were looking forward to an evening barbecue with our families and were filling in the time until the sun dropped further in the sky and everyone’s thoughts turned to having a bite to eat.
Before long we were clambering about on the rocks, gradually filling a bucket with large mussels wrestled free of their strong grip along the water’s edge. Ray Doogue’s well-known “N.Z. Sea Angler’s Guide“, reprinted regularly throughout the ’60s, listed some extraordinary “favourite baits”, among them partly boiled bullock’s liver soaked in kerosene, macaroni noodles, a compounded mixture of bread, cheese and mince mixed with a tin of sardines and cooked in a cloth like a plum pudding and even crayfish (perhaps as an alternative to venison or oysters?!), but I was soon to learn that mussels are, in fact, the best bait.
When we arrived back at the beach our wives were enjoying glasses of wine. Butch’s children were fossicking along the tide-line and no-one seemed greatly worried yet about a barbecue, although the hot plate was, by now, ready to go so, cans in hand, we decided to put on a pot of water and, after it had boiled, give a couple of our mussels a quick dip until their shells opened before whipping them out. We dribbled lemon juice over them and devouring them as an entree. Wonderful! This continued, at intervals, until the family were ready for sausages. Chops and salads which were duly served by a couple of chefs who had continued to enjoy seafood snacks throughout their duties. Try doing that with bullock’s liver!
Afterwards, we all sat back and relaxed further, enjoying the sun slipping below the ridges to the west and the mild breeze stirring the bush around us. Until I broke the silence.
“Let’s go fishing.”
“Can’t,” replied Butch, “got no bait!”
‘Well there’s always tomorrow,” I suggested.
“Sure.” he said, “perhaps we could row around and gather some mussels just before lunch!”
Moki, in particular, will readily take mussel baits in preference to cut fish bait. Try size 4/0 hooks and use plenty of bait elastic to secure the mussel to the hook. Live mussels can be purchased quite cheaply in many supermarkets and make good fish bait. Snapper and John Dory also love mussel baits. Small pieces of mussel make excellent bait for mullet and many others.
Mussels Daily Bag Limit
The daily bag limit for mussels in the Marlborough Sounds – Challenger area of 50 per person, with no minimum size. Be sure to check the fishing rules on the Ministry of Primary Industries website before taking shellfish. Limits may vary in different areas.