Berley is an accepted part of every serious fisher’s armoury: most anglers won’t leave home without it.
The idea of berley is to attract fish close enough to bite your baited hook. The theory is that a fine cloud of scent and particles will draw fish close so that you can present baits to them. Berley recipes commonly include cereals, chicken meal, shellfish and a variety of other ingredients, but a good fish-based berley is hard to beat.
Ground-baiting – spreading pieces of cut fish, shellfish or other ‘berley’ around the boat – is a good way to hold fish close and get them into feeding mode. Don’t overdo it, though, or they’ll fill up on free offerings and ignore your bait.
Berley will only attract fish it can reach. It works best when the berley trail is carried by the tide towards reefs, rocks and structures that shelter fish. Berley is less effective over sand, although fish will still follow a berley trail to its source.
Berley released at the surface works well in shallow water provided the current is moderate. In deep water, surface berleying is of little use in most instances as the current carries berley particles too far away from the boat before they get anywhere near the bottom.
Instead, deploy berley using a weighted basket or similar device suspended close to the bottom.
Berley is easy enough to make using minced fish, fish oil and other ingredients. Homemade mixes often include bread or cereal to bind them together. You can process unwanted fish and bait scraps on board using a berley pot and ‘chopper’ to mash fish and shellfish into small pieces, which are released through the holes drilled in the berley pot; however, berley pots, especially metal ones, are noisy and in shallow water their use can scare fish away. Chopping fish into small chunks and feeding them over the side is often a better option in shallow water.
Making berley, or processing fish on board, is messy and many anglers prefer to buy frozen or pre-prepared berleys. Most petrol stations and tackle stores stock frozen blocks of ready-made berley.
Dry-berley mixes work too and are even less hassle than frozen blocks. Most anglers supplement them with chunks of fresh fish as ground bait.
Frozen berley comes in blocks of various size, composition and quality. It is usually supplied with a mesh bag.
Fish-based berleys are most popular for snapper fishing, preferably with plenty of fish oil in the mix, but mussel and kina mixes also have their advocates. Larger blocks last longer than smaller ones and all frozen berley lasts much longer in winter than in summer.
Frozen blocks can be suspended anywhere in the water column using a heavy line and weights, a basket or other berley delivery system, or else dispensed at the surface tied off the boat’s transom. Frozen berley can also be used from the rocks or from the beach.