Finding Bait in a Hurry

Where do you go when you need bait fast? The grocery store

By Dennis Doyle  

Handling the large chunk of bait, I implanted the hook on its edge allowing plenty of hook gap—an important consideration with the design of the circle hook. Obscuring the hook is not a critical issue for the circle hook’s design—it is intended to lodge itself in the side of a fish’s mouth as the fish pulls the line taut and, once it is secure, it rarely comes loose.
My package of bait, a pound of chicken breasts, remained on the ice in the small cooler at my feet. One of the problems with spur-of-the-moment fishing trips is securing the bait; if you’re not fishing strictly artificials such as trolling, plugging, or jigging, getting a supply of the appropriate bait requires a trip to a sporting goods store or bait shop and can delay any trip as much as an hour or more, assuming that they even have some on hand.

There are solutions to this problem— but they are not ideal solutions. If you want to save time and get on the water faster, supermarket bait is the way to go. Although not originally intended for fishing applications, these kinds of bait will nonetheless get the job done, often with surprisingly good results.

Along with the influx of invasive species, there is an explosion of effective baits that can catch many of the interlopers. Blue, flathead, and channel catfish come immediately to mind with the first two reaching sizes over 100 pounds and commonly found to 30 pounds. The fact that they are omnivorous makes selecting appropriate bait a much easier task.

The best baits, of course, are the ones that the target species are feeding on at that particular moment. For most Bay species, including rockfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel, as well as the cats, that currently means menhaden, spot, white perch, bloodworms, and crab.

If you’re targeting the catfish with Bay game fish as secondary targets, there is a whole world of possibilities. The whisker fish, and surprisingly often rockfish, will readily take a chunk of raw chicken (both white and dark meat), skin, pieces of organ meat from all species, Spam, chewing gum in the fruity flavors (chew it first for better in-the-water flavor), pieces of hot dogs, cooked sausage, bacon, cheese chunks, chunky dog food, table shrimp (raw and cooked), and a variety of seafood such as mackerel, salmon or cod. At the extreme end of things, I’ve heard that even pieces of Ivory soap have reportedly resulted in a stringer of fat curious catfish, carp, and sometimes even a hefty rockfish.
Add to these offerings the unusual subsurface presentation of marshmallows, Tootsie Rolls, fried chicken nuggets, and chicken strips; all are claimed to have seduced game fish across the region. I have witnessed small pieces of nightcrawlers and cooked shrimp hooking up ridiculously large rockfish during the fall and into the winter.

You just never can account for taste and these baits will always tempt the cats, which are widely known for eating anything.

Further enhancing these baits by marinating them in solutions of various flavors of Kool-Aid, garlic, coffee, liquors, anise, Preparation H, WD-40, and similar but unusual concoctions, are also allegedly effective and I have heard of them touted by fellow anglers from time to time increasing the bite on many fresh and saltwater baits.

While the catfish family is not the most handsome nor exciting of our Chesapeake’s piscine critters, they are sizeable, powerful, great on the table, and, more importantly, take a great deal of angling pressure off our beloved stripers who continue to struggle to regain their previous numbers.