This week: Live bait or fresh fish for the family.
This topic has long been debated between my wog mates, now I’m from Italian heritage so wogs should not be offended. This week tips is centred around catching the stable live baits in particular 2 species. Yellowtail (yakas) and slimy mackerel (slimy). I will go into other live fish baits in another article.
Slimy mackerel are a favourite bait for recreational fishing and are held in high esteem as one of the best all round live bait to use. Slimy mackerel (Scomber australasicus) are a small tropical and sub tropical mackerel species found all up and down the eastern seaboard. They are pelagic and can be found from out on the Continental shelf to in and around bays and harbours, often congregating around structures such as jetties and wharves. These environments where they are easily accessible to everyone.
Yellowtail also known as Bung or Yakka, Chow, Mcculloch’s Yellowtail, Scad, Southern Yellowtail Scad, Yakka, Yellowtail, Yellowtail Chow, Yellowtail Horse Mackerel, Yellowtail Mackerel. They are a traditional bait for recreational and commercial fishers. They are a pelagic fish that form large schools in marine inshore areas such as estuaries and bays. Adult fish are generally found over offshore rocky reefs, while juveniles are generally found in shallow, soft substrate areas including jetties and wharves.
The great thing about these little fish is they like to congregate in large numbers, usually mixed together around easily accessible structures. They can be targeted with almost any gear you can think of so great fun light handlines, K-mart combos, bream outfits and fly outfits will all do the job brilliantly. For enjoyments sake the lighter the better. Pound for pound slimies give a surprisingly good account for themselves and a big one will put up a stinker of a fight on light line including pulling some drag. Most use a 5 rig jig to catch these little demons and they are great for kids and people starting. Fooling them with lures, small baited hand line and flies is far more exciting. They will readily attack small fish imitation lures and flies with gusto. Metal lures, soft plastics, flies, vibes and small hard bodied lures all work a treat and provide great fun. If you are unable to find them around accessible area’s try a little burly of bread crumbs mixed with cat food. They are a great bait for larger fish and pelagic’s including Kings, Tuna, Marlin, Teraglin, big Snapper, all love them.
Here is where the debate starts. I love them as bait both dead or alive however when bait is easy to catch I also put some straight on ice ready to eat when I come home. My Aussie mates believe these fish are for bait only and would never eat them. Personally they’re 2 under-rated table fish that most simply discard. I like to come home from fishing and for lunch gut and roll out the bones cook in simple oil and have them on toast. With tomato and butter. YUM. Smoking is another awesome way to enjoy them especially slimmies. Hot smoking is best, which also cooks the fish. The way to do it is to soak the butterflied fish in a brine (3-5%salt) for 1-2 hours. Then pat dry the fish and leave to dry on the bench for 2-3 hours. The drying step ensures that the flesh of the fish caramelizes properly in the smoker giving you that deep golden colour. Then you simply smoke them. The time it takes to smoke the fish will depend on the smoker you are using and can vary from 15 minutes to an hour, a few tries and you’ll quickly work out the optimum smoking time especially seeing these little fish are so easy to catch. You can also vary the time, to vary the texture of the fish.
Yakkas are fantastic to eat raw or lightly BBQ. I mean this is a real treat. I do prefer the yakkas more during winter as I find they are larger and have a higher fat content in them which seem to make them even more tasty. I do enjoy butterflying them and then marinating them in teryaki sauce before BBQ lightly. Another method I don’t mind is salting them. Simply score the whole fish rub in sea salt and leave it to sit for 40 minutes to an hour. Wash off the salt, pat dry and BBQ! Serve with chilli flakes or favourite dipping sauce. Next time you want to have a bit of fun on light gear and are collecting some live bait, I strongly suggest keeping a few slimies or yakkas for the table. Looked after (kept in ice whole) and cooked properly they are delicious.
Remember adults you will need to have a valid fishing license to fish any NSW waters and there is a bag limit of 50 for each species or species grouping. Tight lines until next week.