Probably the most universal of all natural baits is the worm. The more easily obtained common garden worm is a good standby for the big, pencil thick variety found in shady gullies between hills along sub-tropical rain forests. They can also be found in marshy, fertile river flats. The more active the worm, the better it presents to the fish. Worms are also bred as commercial ventures for anglers and these days, also for composting and environmental destruction of waste matter. One of the best methods to harvest worms is to lay a hessian bag in a shady spot, keep it permanently damp and place vegetable peelings underneath it.
Another recommended bait is the grub. Many anglers swear that the odor which emanates from the maggots of the big moths when pierced by a hook can be detected from a great distance by fish. Grubs have a reputation as top bait for the inland angler. Grubs can usually be located by removing the top few inches of soil from around the base of a tree. They can also be located in the timbers of trees where that live out their larval stage of their development. They kill the tree as they eat their way into its heart and small holes are a giveaway as to their presence.
In some areas frogs are suitable bait. Not a popular or well-known bait, but soonless the small brown frog usually found under loose bark is the pick of the frogs as bait. The tadpole is effective bait for trout when thrown in the shallow streams among weed beds.
Another bait anglers can use when others are in short supply is the freshwater mussel. These hard-shelled molluscs can usually be found at the river edge or on the beds of the rivers and their soft, fleshy center is bait some fish find irresistible.
The flat bottom of a farm dam is a good place to find crayfish baits. Their presence is usually indicated by small burrowing holes at the edge of the water line. They can also be found under rocks in small streams and creeks. They are generally active at night and have even been seen scampering across dew-covered ground. In winter they tend to burrow deep into the mud of the bottom.
The freshwater shrimp, probably the most successful of all the freshwater baits, are seasonal in their availability. Most fish will rarely turn away from a nicely presented fresh shrimp and at the height of summer they are present in vast numbers. Traps are the best method of capturing the shrimp. Usually a bucket shaped metal container with holes and baited with a dead fish is an efficient method of capture. Perhaps their sense of smell leads them into the bucket to feed off the fish and when retrieved from the water, the bucket drains of water, leaving the entrapped shrimp behind. Areas to search for the shrimp are at the water’s edge next to weed, rocks and algae-covered timber. They have a similar appearance to the prawn and are excellent bait for any species of fish.
Live fish are excellent bait and it is a vast practice to use them. In dark, murky waters the big-mouthed fish are attracted to these baits by their movement more so than their appearance or characteristics.
Before using baits such as those mentioned, local regulations must be checked as it is prohibited in some trout waters to use such baits which may compromise the habitat. Indeed the European Carp, which is in plague proportions in Australian rivers and destroys the habitat of the natural fish, are a classic example of what can happen when live bait are released and allowed to thrive. Baits used for trout are almost always live and usually consist of the small water-based animals from the same area as the fish. Trout do appreciate variety although and can also be taken using grasshoppers, beetles, moths, ants, worms and insects.