Many anglers ask me which type of fish I prefer to use as a strip bait. My answer to that is the one that will catch me a fish. A number of years ago I was working as a deck hand off a small charter operation out of the Port Hacking and as they say you are never too young or old to learn, and on this particular day we were targeting dolphin fish and our preferred baits were either yellowtail or slimy mackerel. The problem was that the small sweep had moved into both of the spots we normally would get plenty of our preferred baits. One of the clients on board told us that his dad use to use strips of sweep to catch dolphin fish.
Notice how the hook point and barb are out of the bait and the use of the half hitch to stop the bait sliding down the hook.
Once we arrived off shore the first baits to go over were the fillets of either yellowtail or slimy mackerel (we only had two of each) that we had caught. Once they ran out all we had was the sweep and to my amazement the dolphin fish were all over them. Maybe it was because of the smell, the oil content. All I know is that they worked.
Now if you think about it yellowtail and slimy mackerel are a long narrow shaped fish species, while a sweep is more shaped like a dinner plate. So what we did was trim the sweep fillets down to the shape of the yellowtail.
One of the problems that will occur when not correctly rigging up a strip bait when using a single hook is that the bait will either bunch up on the hook or it will twist around and around twisting up your line and putting off the fish.
If the tailor are about and you are using a single hook remember to increase the breaking strain of your leader
There are a couple ways that you can stop this happening. Try putting the hook just in the tail end of the strip bait. The other way is that you pass the hook through the tail end twice and then insert the hook through the flesh. This two passes of the hook through the tail end will act like a double half hitch and stop the back slipping down the line.
When at anchor cast the rig out the back of the boat and you will find that the strip bait will just slowly flap in the flowing current. The other technique that you could try is sliding a small ball sinker down onto the top of the bait and when fishing on a set of shallow sand flats cast it out and slowly start retrieving it back towards you. This is a great technique to use when targeting flathead in shallow water.
If you are working the shoreline make sure that you walk slowly and quietly towards the waters’ edge. Time and time again I have seen many an angler step into the water, only to scare off a flathead that has been virtually at their feet.
Flathead can’t seem to resist a fresh strip of mullet, tuna, squid and slimy mackerel
Slimy mackerel just love to hang around places where there is a combination of rocks or boulders, kelp and sand. They can also be found around wharfs, pylons, swing moorings, inshore and offshore reefs or just about anywhere there is a structure of some kind. A certain times of the year you will come across huge schools of slimy mackerel feeding on very small bait fish.
They can be trolled up on very small minnows and chrome lures which are trolled between 2 to 4 knots. They will also school up on inshore reefs, around marker buoys and most other structures that are found in the bays. When anchored up on an inshore reef you will need to berley them to the back of the boat. Once they are in the berley trail you will need keep up a small but consistent trail. Depending on the size of the fish you can vary your hook size from a number 8 long shank to a number one. Very small pieces of prawns, pilchard, tuna and chicken breast are worth a try for bait.
If you are going to keep them live you will either need to get yourself a live bait tank, or a reliable aerator in a round plastic bucket or continually keep changing the water, otherwise they will die on you very quickly. Dead whole or fillets of mullet can be store in a plastic container in the freezer. If you wanted to you could sprinkle a bit of salt over them, but I find that they are just as good without the salt. If you have the space and the time you could set up a set of shallow tanks and keep them in that. The same way that they do it in the shops.
- Notice how the hook point and barb are out of the bait and the use of the half hitch to stop the bait sliding down the hook.