Pump your own bait
Michael Bok tells where, how and why.
At times gathering bait is almost as much fun as fishing itself and the rewards from catching better fish on fresh caught bait are great. A bait pump is a great help if you fish out coastal or estuary environments. What is a bait pump?
It is a metal tube with a handle on one side and a pump mechanism, that is not dissimilar to a bicycle pump. The pumps tend to be about 600 - 800 mm long and about a 50 mm diameter. These pumps last forever with out much maintenance. I have had my Alvey bait pump for 25 years and have never replaced a part in it, although it might be time to replace some of the washers now.
After a days use just wash in fresh water. As most pumps work using the water as a lubricant make sure you tighten the washers before pumping and loosen after use. This will help save them. The tighter you tighten these washers also effects how much pull you get out of the sand, if too tight the handle will pull back as you are trying to pump and if too loose, you will not be able to pump out your bait.
A pump is used to extract bait out of the sand with out having to dig great holes everywhere.
When you use a pump, it is also useful to have a sieve system to pump to. A sieve set up can be constructed by lashing a large fine strainer fish inside and inner car tube, enabling it to float in the shallows. This floats and can be towed behind you.
How do you use a bait pump?
First you must decide what sort of bait you are looking for, worms, yabbies or shellfish and what sort of tell tale signs they leave.
As you walk along a beach at low tide you will often see what looks like worms spiralled up out of sand and in little piles. These indicate the presence of worms below. I have only ever known these as spew or squirt worms. They can be up to one cm thick and 200 mm long. When you see these place the pump down and pulling the handle up at the same time. Squirt the results into the sieve and sort out.
Place the worm in a bucket with fresh aerated sea water. If you don't get the worm on the first pump, place the pump back in the hole and try again. It could mean the worm is down deeper. This applies to all bait pumping. These worms are often in areas where the beach ends up meeting the land ie corners of beaches and where the sand is grey or muddy. These and all beach worms are excellent bait for all sea fish, gathered while you are surf fishing you have a deadly fresh bait. While you are walking along the beach you will often see holes appear in the sand near your feet and these are well worth pumping. You can quite often pump up worms that are long, thin and have lots of fine legs. I have always known these as wriggler worms, they twist and wriggle in the water, and they are a great bait. If whiting are in the area, they are deadly. When you pump one of these worms you will quite often pump a lot more out of the same area.
As you wander out in the shallows you will often see holes in the sand with small mounds of grey sand around them. These signs tend to be indicative of yabbies or nippers as we always call them. A sieve is a must when pumping for yabbies as they are very quick to rebury themselves. These look like a freshwater yabby, but are smaller (about 50 mm to 80 mm ) with pink bodies and have one large white nipper which does not hurt if it bites you. These can also be pumped from the mud flats in some estuaries.
Yabbies as well as shrimp would have to be some of the best baits you can get for bream. You will quite often pump up little soldier crabs when looking for yabbies. Do not throw these away, but put them in the bucket with the yabbies as they tend to somehow aerate the water, keeping the yabbies alive longer than they would have otherwise.
Cockles are common in shallow bays and estuaries and display similar traces in the sand to yabbies and are pumped in the same way. A lot of our beaches have large populations of cockles buried in the shallows at low tide and can easily be stirred up by twisting your feet in the sand, creating a great berley effect as they are washed out to sea.
The larger cockles are able to be targeted in areas like the Swan River and St Helens Bay when it is low tide and sand bars are exposed. Pumping these areas will produce a good supply. Once again a great bream bait and having the added advantage of being able to be frozen and used later. The larger cockles have the advantage of being edible for us poor humans as well as the fish.
Pumping your own bait can be a lot of fun. Basic equipment consists of an Alvey bait pump and a simple plastic sieve. Both are available at tackle stores. Sometimes the sieve is placed in a small tyre tube. This allows silt and mud to wash through while leaving the bait behind.