How to Cook Fish Bait

How to Cook Fish Bait
Bait fish such as sardines, shad, pile worms, mackerel, anchovies and minnows can be used raw or cooked to seal in flavor and draw out natural oils. The biggest reason to cook bait fish is to toughen the skin, because small fish can easily swim by your line and nibble bait fish if it is too soft. You also want your bait fish to hold up underwater, especially on days when large fish are not feeding as frequently as you would like. You don’t have to cook bait fish 100 percent done; you just have to toughen it up a bit.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Knife
  • Skillet
Step 1
Cut 3- to 4-inch fillets using stainless steel scissors. Cut bait fish such as sardines and shad into fillets, which you will hook onto your line after they are cooked. You also can cut bait fish into 1-inch chunks, if you prefer.
Step 2
Sprinkle salt onto the fillets, which will toughen the skin and enrich the flavor of the meat. Add additional spices such as garlic when fishing for salmon. Other flavor enhancers include bait sauce and sardine oils.
Step 3
Cure the bait fish overnight using a fish cure. Check the fillets in the morning. You should be able to smell the flavor enhancer coming off the bait.
Step 4
Cook fillets in oil to prevent lean fish from drying out. It is imperative that bait fish remain tender. Large fish must be able to smell the oils and blood found in bait fish if they are to swim over to strike your line. As a general rule of thumb, cook either side of your bait for 30 to 45 seconds, which will toughen the skin and seal in the flavor.
Step 5
Bait your line with your cooked bait fish. Use plugs or simply thread the bait fish on your line. Cooked bait fish will hold up longer underwater than soft bait fish that has not been cooked.

Tips & Warnings

Use flounder as a bait fish for striped bass.

Article Written By Charlie Gaston

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

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