Bait collection must be sustainable

BAIT and the selection of bait will always be the decider on whether you catch or not, excluding prevailing conditions naturally. Natural baits offer a wide variety and vast knowledge of the methods of collection is needed to collect this bait effectively.

From the harvesting of bait by small-scale fishers – who sell to the angler – to personal efforts to ensure quality requires knowledge of the types of bait and the species of fish to be targeted. Not all baits work anywhere, so knowledge of what works where is also vital to success.

The Recreational Angling Brochure explains the gear restriction pertaining to the harvesting and quantities that may be possessed. These brochures are available from the post office, conservation authorities and on the net at www.daff.gov.za– look under fisheries division and click on recreational fishing and then again on regulations. The brochure can be downloaded.

Unfortunately the environmental impact of the collection of bait will always stir emotions among folk who view things from different angles. This is a hot topic at present and needs to be reviewed, especially with the small-scale fisheries.

Study the photograph and you will see no attempt is being made to close the craters dug. This creates huge habitat destruction. Education is vital for the long-term sustainability of bait harvesting.

Rotation plans are also vital for the recovery of these eco-systems, especially with the use of forks which has been granted to the small-scale fishers of the Swartkops River.

The management of these fisheries is a huge challenge and cannot be monitored by compliance inspectors on their own.

Tapeworm collected on the Swartkops Estuary with the use of forks (the only way it can be extracted), is transported vast distances to other estuaries as it is very popular among grunter anglers. There appears to be a distinct advantage when using tapeworm, especially in estuaries that have none.

In the old days this was illegal and this ban being lifted has placed considerable pressure on the Swartkops, which has become the bait “bread basket” of the Eastern Cape. The quest for tapeworm has created a market where great financial incentives are offered, which leads to large- scale illegal harvesting, especially at night, as forks are only legally used on Fridays during the day.

No bait of any kind may be collected between sunset and sunrise.

There are certain areas around our coast where bait that don’t occur in other areas is collected. The estuaries offer the largest variety and the easiest opportunity to harvest in the shortest space of time should you want to fish the tide.

There are three prawn species, namely sand, mud and snapper, found along with blood, tape and tongue worm, razor clam or pencil bait, cuttlefish or chummy, live bait and swimming prawn, which are seasonal and are gathered in the estuaries. Baits such as red bait, alikreukel, octopus, coral worm, white mussel, oysters, squid and sand crab are collected along the coast mostly on the “wild side” (from Cape Recife to Maitlands).

I cannot emphasise how important fresh bait is, except in the case of red bait. Presentation is also critical, so experiment. Remember, smells enhance the chances of attention your bait will receive. Remember the Venus ear is classed in the abalone species and you may not possess it.

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