Live bait can catch some great fish at times and most of the time will outfish lures but its not a technique thats guaranteed to catch a fish. The trouble is that good quality live baits are often harder to catch than the bigger fish and it can take hours to catch enough for a couple of hours fishing. This article will detail most of the livebaits that can be used, how to catch them and where you might find them.
My favourite livebait and one of the biggest livebaits with an average size around 30cm. Size can be an issue, 40cm plus models are usually only taken by big fish such as metre long kingies and mulloway. Smaller fish such as Tailor and trevally prefer the smaller models around 30cm. Pike can be caught around any of the weedbeds of the broadwater, particularly the weedbeds around Wavebreak and Crab island and the weedbeds at the mouth of Loder's Creek & western side of South Stradbroke Island. Unfortunately between May and September these weedbeds are netted on a weekly basis by the mullet netters and pike are rare during this time. You can catch them on small minnows (rapala XR6 & XR4) & small plastics (2 inch curl tails or paddle tails)on light jigheads. Try trolling a minnow around until you find the school, then throw plastics at them. The top half of the tide is the best time to get them. Pike can be caught around bridges and lighted jetties at night using small minnows or plastcis but its not something you can rely on unless you find a decent sized school that stays in the same area.
Pike can also be caught offshore on the shallow bait reefs, sometimes during the day but more often at night. You can get them on 3" Gulp minnows on 1/2 oz jigheads, you need to go that heavy because they are holding between 10 & 20 metres down. You can also catch them on any flesh baits or white pilchards. They are a different species but the fish still like them just as much, getting small ones can be a challenge though, the average size can be around 45cm. The offshore pike also require alot of water changes as the water fouls quickly so keep an eye on them to make sure you don't lose your hard earned baits.
Yellowtail & Slimy Mackerel
Yellowtail & Slimies are usually only found offshore on the shallow bait reefs but sometimes you can get them around the ends of the walls. Usually caught on the 6 hook bait jigs, they can also be caught on baits of peeled prawn and any fish flesh. They are much easier to catch at dawn than during the day or at night. Most fish will eat a yellowtail or slimy mackerel and GT's in particular have a big liking for them. Weather permitting Yellowtail are probably the easiest of the livebaits to catch, slimies are alot harder to catch and not something you can rely on. Look for the other boats east of the sand pumping jetty in 20m of water to find the shallow bait reefs.
The first thing to remember with sea mullet is that they do have a size limit of 30cm so don't keep any small sea mullet in your livewell. You can use small yellow eye or sand mullet though, if you can't tell the difference better not to use them at all. Mullet are very hardy and will last forever in your livewell, they aren't quite as good a livie as the first two but better than nothing. Mulloway and cod will still happily take a live mullet of any size. The best chance of getting live mullet is in a cast net, try in any of the canal estates close to the seaway. You can catch sand mullet on a hook baited with bread, just berley them up and use a size 12 hook with a small bit of bread under a float.
Herring can be caught around jetties and bridges, cast nets are preferred but they can also be berleyed up with bread and caught on bait jigs. Herring are probably the most used livebait in the seaway but they do attract bream all the time which is annoying. They do catch good fish though, tailor, trevally and small jewies will happily eat them. Useful if you can't catch anything else and still better than mullet.
Hardyheads, White pilchards & Frogmouth Pilchards
These small baitfish have limited uses in the seaway but can be useful for catching tarpon, trevally or tailor. Numbers of these fish are seasonal and tend to hang around different places every year so its pretty much as case of catch them when you find them. Most of these fish can only be caught with a cast net, but hardyheads can be berleyed up with bread and caught on bait jigs.
Squid would be an ideal livie but I don't know anywhere you can catch them regularly, they do show up around lighted areas at night and the weedbeds around wavebreak during winter. The only problem is they wont last in a livewell and die quickly so use them quick if you get them.
Tailor are useful as a livie for mulloway but make sure you use its over the legal size of 35cm, check the tailor fishing article for more hints on those.
Decent sized Prawns are a good livie as well, but there's nowhere near the seaway you can catch them regularly.
Silverbiddies also have a good reputation, cast netting around sandbanks are the main way of catching them, but the bigger models can be caught on peeled prawns and small hooks.
Garfish would also be a very good bait, but they are one species I haven't tried yet. You can catch them on the western side of wavebreak, put down some bread berley and fish with small hooks under a float.
caught a squid near outback jacks two nights ago am0ngst the odd good size brim so there must be a few around …thought was unusual but none the less was a good size squid
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Im not sure if u know but if you are hard pressed for pike and dont mind driving a bit from the seaway u can get them inside sanctuary cove resort by the hundreds when we were working there we were just fishing at smoko for half an hour and we would pull in 40 between 2 of us around little bridges in there!!! Mostly on grassminnows 119 in small size with a 1/32 oz jig head. Only problem is getting in there! They have security driving around in boats and they kicku out there usually not assholes about it tho!!