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Why salting bait is smart money, for the savvy Fisherman

Why salting bait is smart money, for the savvy Fisherman

With our precious resources becoming harder and harder to find it is important that we do not waste quality bait by allowing it to sour on the boat deck or wharf.

Salted Pilchards after drying


Small fish are susceptible to rapid changes in heat, which speeds up the enzymatic breakdown of the flesh through providing an excellent opportunity for bacteria growth. When storing fish, it is always recommended to keep it at a temperature below 5°C/41°F to maintain an optimal food standard, therefore to provide the freshest possible bait the same standards need to be applied.

Where the options for chilling your bait are limited Salting/dehydrating the bait helps to preserve it for later use. For bacteria to thrive it needs a warm moist environment, the process of salting removes the moisture and therefore ceases the breakdown process. A hard issue for fishermen is determining at what point the bait is sufficiently salted/cured to meet this requirement and remain functional.

Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to remove 25% to 33% of the weight by volume through the salting process. This is a much more accurate method than situations where you see products being salted for days and days. If you are salting on a regular basis as we do here at the tackle shop it is far easier to operate on this weight-based process. Operating on the rough equivalent basis that one milliliter of water equals one gram it is easy to determine that 1 kg of pilchards will yield between 250 and 330 mL of fluid from a standard salting process.

To conduct this activity equipment you will require is

Coarse salt or swimming pool salt (With no additives)

15 L plastic container

2 to 5 kg of pilchards or baitfish or;

10 or more fillets.

As you are processing the bait it is best to weigh your produce to determine what your end liquid removal requirements are. I find it easy to drill one to three 10mm drainage holes in one edge of the 15 L container so that any liquid drawn from the fish by osmosis is drained from the container thereby improving the quality of the salting process. It is important to keep the fish at a temperature below 10°C whilst conducting the initial salting process this aids in maintaining the freshness of the product.

It is not necessary to thaw the bait prior to salting as the process just slightly delayed by the thawing process, If you choose to thaw the bait i.e. it is in block form and needs to be separated we suggest that this is best achieved by fully dissolving approximately 600 grams of salt in 10 liters of water to produce a double brine. This solution allows the bait to thaw slowly whilst commencing the salting process. It is possible to merely leave the bait in this solution in a refrigerated environment and allow it to salt however it means that the bait needs to be removed and drained before weighing to determine if it is sufficiently salted. This is, however, a reasonably effective way of thawing your bait on the way out to the fishing grounds and the addition of ice to form a chill slurry aids in maintaining your bait in a ready to use fashion over a long hot days fishing.

In the dry salting method place, a layer of salt approximately 20mm thick at the bottom of the box. Then laying the bait as flat and straight as possible stack the box with a covering of salt between layers. When you have finished salting and layering cover with a lid or towel and store in a cool place on an angle to allow the liquid to drain into a container so that you can collect it for weighing.

When your target has been reached, "at least 25% W x V", remove the bait from the salt and in batches dunk it in a bucket of freshwater to remove the residual salt. This stops the drying process. Remember don’t allow the bait to soak in the water as it will start to draw moisture and negate your hard work. (3 to 5-second dunk is all that’s needed to remove the surface salt.) We have found that for best storage results that patting dry the bait with a towel before sealing in a bag helps to maintain the quality of the bait and avoids ice crystals forming in the bag after storing in the freezer. If you dint have a bag sealer handy to seal your bait Ziplock bags with 10 to 12 pilchards make for the perfect alternative.

If of course, this seems too messy an option for you we are happy to help as we regularly salt bait each week for our customers.  The baits we salt or brine depending on availability are, Pilchards, White Bait, (Sand Sprat), Slimy Mackerel, Stripey or Mack Tuna Fillets and Pipis.

White Bait (Sandy Sprat) retain a reflective finish after salting

Don’t forget to bottle and refrigerate the liquid gold and use it as a scent line when you are fishing.

Good luck on your next fishing adventure and we hope to see you in-store at Culburra Beach soon for the start of your next Fishing adventure.  

By G C-B.

C-B Tackle

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