Phil Arnott wrote:Stuart,
I think it's natural for anglers to speculate why a fish takes a bait but I gave up quite a while ago as I wrote about it in Angling Times a while back See below.
Having watched tadpoles, shore crabs and a sand lizard feeding on bread nothing surprises me.
Copyright © Philip Arnott 2002
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It is a commonly held view that baits fish well where they are found naturally. For instance it is often stated that lugworm fishes well over a lug bed and crab fishes well over rocks. While this is often the case, the logic behind the thinking is flawed. The trouble is that nobody told the fish. For much of the time fish, like most other wild creatures, are opportunists when it comes to food. If an easy meal comes along which is acceptable in terms of the diet of the fish then it will be eaten irrespective of whether it is normally found in the area.
When fishing in rocky areas with crab, it might normally be expected to take wrasse, coalfish and cod but these species will also take lugworm well. In truth crab probably has the edge because the fish prefer it but the fact that lug may not be found within miles of the spot does not have any bearing on the results.
A couple of years ago I took some king ragworm over to the Kerry in the west coast of Ireland. When I used them in the surf at Stradbally in Brandon bay I caught five bass for over 20lb. The bass just loved them despite the fact that king rag are not found on the west coast of Ireland.
It may well be found that in some cases that the bait natural to the area is the optimum bait. Bass for instance can become preoccupied with sandeel where sandeel are found in numbers. Within a few miles of Brandon bay in Kerry is a mark where sand eel is king and six days after taking the catch on ragworm, I took another five bass on sandeel from this mark.
Another bait myth has grown over the use of white ragworm. Some anglers firmly believe that white ragworm fishes well in clear water because the fish can easily spot it. One angler I knew was looking at the possibility of dying king ragworm white. As an angler who carries out much of my fishing in very turbid water I was amazed at this view as I found white rag was a superb bait in water where the visibility is virtually zero. Visibility is rarely more than a few metres around the British coastline and fish are probably detecting bait by scent at more than 100metres!
Fish like white ragworm because it smells and tastes good; its colour is most likely irrelevant. Comparing white ragworm with king ragworm just because they both have legs and they are both called ragworm is a mistake. From the fishes point of view they may well be as different as chalk and cheese.
We can’t possible know how fish think or work out what they prefer to eat by some logical process. Applying our way of thinking to that of the fish has lead to many of the fishing myths. The only sure way of knowing the effectiveness of a particular bait for a particular species of fish, at a particular fishing mark, at any particular time, is by trial and error. This way the fish will let us into the secret.
Very interesting write up Phil,
Funny how you mention about bass fishing with various baits that are not indigenous to the specific areas,
If you've ever been on WSF Phil you'll no doubt realise that I'm a very experienced Thames estuary bass angler for around the last 20 years and have used a whole host of various baits to catch bass,
The no: 1 bait by far is squid, most of the time I'd use whole unwashed squid on a 5/0 pennel rigs on very light inline free running rigs, not yer standard conventional paternoster or pulley rigs as I feel that there's absolutely no need for em in the river,
Anyhow it was once mentioned to me from somebody from Thamesmead, Woolwhich that squid was no good in the river because it wasn't natural
My response was well that is very strange considering I've caught literally hundreds of bass within about the last 18 odd years and all caught on squid except for the odd handful caught on ragworm.
All fish were caught going downstream from Woolwhich, Thamesmead, Belverdeare, Erith, Dartford, Greenhithe, Swanscombe, Northfleet ( my home town ) Gravesend and Cliffe.
Whilst I'd agree that the uk does obviously have a very healthy squid population around the shoreline the Thames itself doesn't exactly have squid go many miles up the estuary but yet I can still catch bass on it some 25 miles upriver right up as far as Woolwhich
Sometimes I suppose it's nice to know that we can at times use natural baits that are found within a fishes habitat but at the same time many of us over the years have now come to realise that this isn't always necessary.
Another way to look at it is yes we all know that we can all drive chub into a complete feeding frenzy with sometimes upto a gallon of maggots or so but is this really a natural bait to the fish in this mass proportion
How many natural incidents do we see of animal carcasses up a tree drip feeding large amounts of maggots
The answer is that we don't..... but fish learn and tune into with what is being offered by us coarse anglers