Using Sand Eels for Bait article by John Staten
An eel-like fish which swim in large shoals, that's the sand eel. They are abundant and an important part of the fish food chain. The sand eel is a bait fish that every one bait fishing knows about but I believe few realise the potential of. Sand eels often catch more fish than any other bait, just ask the guys down south or in Wales.
The sand eel can be fished in several different ways and are normally best fished as a 'live bait'. It can be hooked through the mouth - up through the head, through the back, through the tail or through the skin on the kneck. I don't think personally it matters too much how the hook it set as long as the sand eel stays alive and looks natural. Different species of fish will attack and take a bait in various ways.
Finding sand eels can sometimes prove hard but by asking about in your own local area you might find a boat, or tackle shop that can supply you. Otherwise it means gathering your own. The effort in gathering your own is well worth it because of the effectiveness of this great bait! The sand eel is prolific around our coast line, it is just a matter of where abouts in each area they can be found. Ask around in your local tackle shop, other anglers, the local angling club and not forgetting online forum's, a great place to pick up loads of information about our sport.
The best methods to present sand eels are by using them under a float or on a long snood on a bottom rig. The hooks most folk use are often circle hooks for bottom fishing and normal single or triple hooks when fished under a float. Sand eel will catch most of what we call our 'sporting' fish in this country, especially the infamous Bass.
A 'best buy' for keeping your sand eels alive is a bait bucket, there are one or two very good ones available from good tackle shops. The Salt Bucket by Shakespeare at around £18.00 is ideal for your live sand eels utilising an aeration pump. It has it's own pouch for an aerator pump, has a lid which helps to keep the sun from cooking your eels and also stops them from jumping out! It can also be used for storage of baits such as crab, ragworm and lug worm. It's easy enough to wash it out and it is also collapsible. You can pick up a battery operated pump for around the £9 mark. Sand eel will quickly die if not kept in oxygen aerated water but do watch the temperature as you don't want your hard efforts ending up as cooked fish!
You can keep sand eels in tanks at home but it does get rather involved and I aren't able to go into the method here. Any eels that do die on you, then freeze them down and be sure NOT to let any stay in your bait bucket if they are dead as they WILL kill off the others.
Bass is thee sporting fish in British Waters now and has certainly captured the imagination of a lot of anglers over the last few years. Most of the anglers I know love spinning for them using poppers, plugs, feathers or spinners and some are even starting to fly fish for them. Another very successful method used for Bass fishing inparticular, is dead bait spinning and this is a method I would highly recommend.
There are a lot of benefits to using this method. You need to present the sand eel like you would a popper or plug, as an injured fish, nothing too hard in that and you get scent, colour, look and feel as an added bonus. Presenting them like this gives you the same options as using poppers etc, you can move about searching for your Bass whether it be along a surf beach, among rock gullies or between sand banks.
There is another method and that is to wrap the sand eel in a slice of squid and secure the squid with a bit of elasticated cotton, leaving the head and tail of the sand eel protruding. This method helps to protect the eel and it should keep a lot longer on the hook before having to change it. Use a small weight on the end of your line, you can get small spinning weights which prevent the dreaded line twist. A hook snood as long as possible to comfortably use to a decent sized hook, add your bait, most species have larger mouths than we tend to give them credit for and away you go.
Remember that Bass are a 'sporting' fish and as such are used to chasing their prey. They will often be found round rocks, on the downside of a sand bank waiting for their next meal to show itself. Don't be afraid to vary your retrieval rate, you would be surprised at the speed bass, mackerel etc can move at. You will often see a 'swirl' next to your bait as you retrieve, don't stop, keep the retrieve the same, if the fish doesn't hit your bait straight away, stop the retrieve for about 10 seconds then start again, this is when a bass will often take.
Sand eel is an excellent sea fishing bait.
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