The staple bait along the southern California cost and for a number of years has been sardines. While the exact reason is under debate, recent catches of sardines or lack thereof, indicate the fish are in decline. Like it or not, anglers may be seeing anchovies as the primary live bait this summer tuna season.
This season for many of the bait docks all that is available for live bait is anchovies, and often very small ones at that. No sardines, no live squid… This could definitely make for some tough days of fishing.
The anchovies available are generally healthy and good swimmers. The problem is, really, local anglers have become accustomed to fishing with either the larger sardines or squid. And there’s definitely an acquired skill to hook them, and some finesse required to cast them away from the boat and to fish them.
So for those of you who find yourself wrestling on your next trip with bait that’s little more than two eyes and a wiggle, here’s some hints on how to fish with them:
Thin wire bait hooks, size 1 and 6
• Have the right hook size for the bait. We’re talking tiny hooks; size 1, or even as small as size 6. Get live bait hooks, the ones made from thinner wire.
• Fish lighter line. For an anchovy to be able to swim, you’re not going to be able to get away with much over 30 pound line.• Look for the largest and most lively baits in the hand well.
• Get your hand under the chosen bait and quickly lift up. If you try to chase them, you’ll never catch one!
Nose hooked anchovy
• Cradle it as gently as possible. If you can get thumb and forefinger on each side by the gills, you should be able to get a bit of a grip, without removing too many scales.
• If you want to use a little weight, nose hooked is the best method. Insert the hook under the bottom jaw and through the tip of the nose, bottom to top. Again, for these small baits, you’ll need a smaller preferably sliding sinker. Use ¼ ounce, or even 1/8 ounce.
Collar or gill hooked anchovy
• If the fish are directly on the surface, you may want to eliminate the sinker. In this case you can collar hook the bait. With the anchovy in the palm of your hand, place a finger lightly over the nose and bend it slightly until the gill starts to flare out. Place the hook point on the gill side of the hard collar bone, then insert coming out just behind that bone.
• If your bait is bleeding after you hook it, get a new one.
• Important! Change your bait often. The smaller the anchovy, the more fragile they are. They don’t last long on a hook. Often, as in a minute, or two at the most!
With these small hooks, a solid hook set in the corner of the mouth is essential, so be on your toes and ready when you get a bite.