Peeler crab – it has that magical sound about it doesn’t it? Peeler crab and cod seem to go together like peaches and cream – and so they do on most occasions.
When you have this bait with you and the cod are there then its hard not to connect with a fish. There are 3 basic ways of obtaining peeler. Firstly you could collect your own from rocky skeers, estuaries or rough ground (Please make sure you return all rocks etc. to there original position). Secondly, you could buy it from a tackle dealer that can get a supply or thirdly you could find one of the guys who has crab traps set in the river and buy it direct. A fourth option is to place your own traps in a productive area ( not for the faint hearted — I was once offered the chance to go through some ones traps for crab — I got half way out to the first trap and then thought better of it. Believe me — these guys deserve a medal and the money they charge for their crab — its hard, dirty and can often be dangerous work – don’t fancy getting stuck in the mud with a flooding tide). Large peeler can be divided up into a number of individual baits by deft use of scissors. 2-3 baits from the body – plus the legs as a top up bait. Checking a crab to see if it is ready to peel is really quite simple — either look for the tell tale crack around the sharp edge of the shell or carefully break away the end of one of the legs — if a new soft leg remains then the crab is beginning to peel. Peeling can either be "brought on" or "held back" depending on how soon the bait is needed. Crab that are likely to peel before you need them can be frozen very sucessfully. Remove all remains of the shell and lungs. Rinse under water and wrap in cling film. Freeze seperately. If you wish to take frozen crab (which can outfish fresh crab on the day) with you — take it in a wide mouthed food flask. Any crab unused can be put back into the freezer.
Lug worm as a bait needs no introduction. If you go fishing then you take lug – If you can get it – Not easy these days. Lug is basically divided into 2 categories – blow lug and black lug (though these may not be the names you use). In the North East black lug is commonly called Runny Down. Given the choice it is the bigger black lug that you should be trying to get hold of, though with digging restriction etc. this is getting more and more difficult -and where it is still po ssible to dig these there are fewer and fewer worms. Black Lug has the major advantage of freezing well (see my tips page) With the price of blow lug now averaging Â£2.50 – Â£3.00 per score you need to work out wether it is cheaper to dig your own – though with petrol costs and the limited time blow lug can be kept, it is doubtful that you could save money (unless you live within spitting distance of a productive bait bed – (sorry, I slipped back 20 years into the past there) With big baits being part and parcel of North East cod fishing, and blow lug being rather small these days, cocktail baits have become necessary. Try blow lug and mussel, lug and rag, lug and squid and the North East killer bait — runny down and white worm.
Ragworm – Undamaged ragworm can be kept, wrapped in dry newspaper, for more than a week in the fridge. It is widely available, and since the introduction of artificially bred ragworm from Northumberland based Seabait there is little problem getting supplies. If you want to try digging your own then the best areas tend to be in estuaries amongst the mud and rocks. Rag can grow to 2 foot or more and can give the angler a nasty nip with it pincers. Rag is at its best when bright red in colour. At breeding time the worm turns to a greenish colour and exudes a green milky liquid when broken. At this point they seem to be less attractive to fish as a bait. Ragworm can be used for most species.
White Ragworm (Silvers, Wrigglies)
A very popular bait in the North East, although becoming very hard to find. The white rag, or silver, is a member of the ragworm family. As its name suggests it is a yellowish white colour. It exudes a black liquid when broken. White rag can be up to 9" in length and can be kept for several weeks in fresh sea water, provided they are checked daily. It’s my experience that white rag tends to be more effective when tipping off other baits rather than as a bait on its own. Can make the difference between catching fish and blanking.
Mussel has been, and still is, the mainstay of North East fishing. Bought by the quart years ago by all North East sea anglers, the mussel is probably still the most productive fish taker of all baits. Though it is getting more difficult to get a regular supply now-a-days, it is well worth the effort of finding a tackle dealer or local fishmonger who can supply it. Fishing with large, fresh mussel baits in a rough sea, feels right, and there is a lot to be said for having confidence in your bait. Many myths surround the humble mussel – some will take them out of their shells and place them in a jam jar, leaving them for a week or two to "ripen". Others insist on keeping mussel alive in sea water to which they add quantities of porridge oats – swearing that the mussel grows and becomes tougher. My own preference is to use them as fresh as possible and to pile them onto the hook forming a "BIG" bait. I think that if we went back to my fathers day and used nothing but mussel as a bait, we wou ld probably still catch as many fish, and, mussel does tend to find the bigger fish.
Mackerel is best known in the North East as a bait for wreck fishing. Used over slack water on a jigger it will give you a better than average chance of picking up a ling. It is much more versatile than this though, and has to be considered a serious bait for the shore angler. Small cubes or strips of mackerel used to tip off a worm bait will tempt whiting, flatfish and the odd cod to the hook, while in the rivers it is irresistable to eels. Enough mackerel can be caught from piers or boats during the summer to last a whole seasons fishing – though wholesale slaughter as seen at some venues cannot be condoned – take what you need, and have fun doing it — use a light spinning/fly rod with a small lure or float fish live sprat for an experience that is a world away from the 6 feathers on a 13′ beach rod using 30lb line technique still used by some. A superb fishing experience is to put on your waders and get into the water – fight the mackerel at "ground" level with a light fly rod –pound for pound I think it will give any trout a run for its’ money, and to have the fish swim around your legs as it makes a final dash for freedom cannot be described in words.