There are many sea fishing baits to choose from, most sea fishing tackle shops stock a collection of frozen baits for our convenience and the ones closer to the coast often sell fresh dug bait. Frozen or fresh bait is up to you, if you can get fresh then that’s the way I would go. Any unused bait I normally freeze down for emergencies! However not all bait can be frozen down, I will go into that further with each bait description.
Mackerel is the work horse of sea fishing bait, excellent on its own or as a cocktail with other baits. All of the large predators with succumb to Mackerel, it can be used whole or as a flapper/filler for larger species. Cut into small slivers it is good for float fishing, or even on the bottom. It freezes down well, can be caught in plenty of numbers in the summer months so you can stock up for winter. Try and freeze them separately so you only take what you need for a session. It will last longer as it is a pain when its all frozen together. I learned the hard way.😉
Plentiful bounty of Mackerel (and a few Launce) in the first picture, taken from Penmon, Anglesey at low tide, the single Mackerel was taken on a two hook flapper rig fished on the bottom baited with lug at Holyhead Breakwater and the latter was from Ty Croes, some good size ones too.
This is my go to sea fishing bait, usually in tackle shop freezers and available fresh if the tide let’s the bait diggers get out. Usually available in packs of 10, fresh freezes well. I’ve frozen and thawed a pack up to 4 times but only in winter and once or twice in summer. I have caught plenty doing this. It’s a perfect all round bait for your smaller beach fish up to and including bass, I have had Thornback Rays on it too but would not actively target them with lugworm. When I fish the Mersey for the winter Cod, its my main bait. I have had some quite poor frozen lug and find that bait holder hooks can help keep it from slipping off. From the shore or boat Lugworm is definitely a fish favorite.
A great sea fishing bait, similar to lug in that it catches almost anything. Whole worms on the bottom work well for most fish, smoothhounds will often take it too. Try small 1 inch sections on Sabaki rigs dropped down the side of piers or harbour walls. Alternatively float fish full or sections, wrasse and smaller species love it. Ragworm is only available fresh and often sells out very quickly, ring the shop and ask them to put you a pack to one side. Ragworm does not freeze well at all, it is unusable once thawed as a stand alone bait. If I am lazy and throw everything into the freezer I pad other baits out with the mush that’s left or the kids use it in the crab traps. It still works when mushy to bait sabakis, no casting and it will be fine but I find the fish can take the bait easier without hooking up.
Squid / dirty Squid
A great and hardy sea fishing bait, plenty of bait elastic keeps it in place and it lasts longer against the onslaught of crabs we see in some areas. Will catch most species dependant on the size of the bait used, a full large squid will pull in some good sized fish and is good for smoothhounds when peeler crab is not available. Squid is often used as tipping bait as it can help stop lug worm sliding off the hook or covering the pointed end. It is often used as a cocktail with other bait to target bigger fish, lug and squid for cod etc. I’ve had a few conger from Ty Croes on big squid baits and thornback rays, try lugworm and hooking the thicker end of the tentacles on as a tipper. Dirty squid is favoured by anglers as it is unwashed so in theory retains its natural slime hence giving a better scent trail. In general squid is bought frozen and can be frozen again if it’s not looking too worse for ware. Again I have refrozen a few times but in summer it can soon go pinkish and off quickly.
Blow lug isn’t usually as widely available in my experience, it is of little use after being frozen, apart from bulking up a main sea fishing bait in my opinion (I did use some to tip Sabaki rigs down the side of holyhead breakwater with good success after mini species so it does have it’s uses) as a stand alone bait it is a good bait for most species, I’ve fished really well with it. One evening blow lug tipped with mackerel was out fishing everything at Perch Rock. All in an excellent and often under used bait, just be careful when hooking as it can pop and goes everywhere leaving you with little left on the hook at times. Had a decent night at Ty Croes with Blow after being served wrong (asked for rag), ended up with 5 packs but couldn’t complain as it was a busy night. Top bait.
Bluey (Pacific Saury)
Bluey is a well used sea fishing bait, the flesh of bluey is like mackerel in that it is very oily which help create a good scent trail for the fish to home in on, the downside to bluey is that the flesh seems weaker so be sure to attach well with plenty of bait elastic. Bluey wrapped in squid is renowned as a big cod bait in winter.
Razor Clam (Atlantic jackknife clam)
A great but underused bait, sold frozen in most tackle shops. Best to use with plenty of bait elastic to help secure it. I cut it up into small chunks and use it as a solo bait rather than a cocktail. Fishing Newborough Island one April I could not get a touch on anything other than Razor.
Found all over and a fish favorite, flat fish and Cod seem to love them. They can be difficult to keep on the hook so plenty of bait elastic is normally required if you have not had time to prepare them. They can be foraged easily as low tide, make sure to leave enough left to replenish themselves.
Foraging for Baits
Most sea fishing baits can be foraged at the right time, it’s helps if you have a worm pump if that’s what you are after. A fork or spade can also be used but it is far more labour intensive, worms dug during summer can be frozen down (lug) to use over winter. The worms are generally deeper down in the sand during winter so a little harder to get to as they try to avoid the cold, it’s also more uncomfortable for us too! The worm beds are easily spotted at low tides due to the sand they push up on the beach or the little holes dotted about.
Winkles (common periwinkle)
We can eat these too, you can often see local restaurant staff filling buckets of these up in some areas.
I ran out of bait whilst fishing at Mostyn, I had packed one rod up when I spotted them and thought why not? I cracked off the shells and hooked them with no elastic, I caught 4 fish in half and hour, same as the previous 2 hours using Lug. I am definitely open to using them if they are about.
Other fish baits
Pin Whiting are around during winter in plague number and are good baits. Sizes vary obviously but they tend to be perfect for a full fish baits, ideal for Huss, Conger etc. They do not have the same oily scent trail as mackerel but work none the less. Make a few punctures to the skin to increase to scent in the water. To me they are the winter version of Mackerel but more abundant.
Whilst night fishing Ty Croes a small pouting resulted in a decent size Huss. There is a lot to be said for fishing baits appropriate to what is naturally occurring during the seasons.