When you examine the stomach contents of many bottom-dwelling saltwater fish species, you’ll often find the remains of crushed mussels.
Many fish love mussels and will often take a mussel over other baits. This is especially true when you fish in areas that naturally contain lots of mussels, like sandy beaches, rocky ledges or reefy areas with nearby mussel beds. Mussels are THE top-secret weapon when surfcasting off beaches and bays or when fishing near mussel farms.
On the flip side, mussels are very tricky baits to use. Due to their rather soft consistency, they are difficult to attach to a fishing hook.
Using fresh mussels is also quite time-consuming while fishing. You first need to crush them or somehow get them out of their shells and then try to wrap the squishy meat around your hook. This put me off from using mussels for a long time.
The solution to these problems is surprisingly easy and only requires a bit of preparation.
You just need to dry out the mussels by salting them a few days before your fishing trip.
Salted mussels work great, are tough enough to stay on a hook and are quick and easy to re-bait.
They also release their scent a bit slower once in the water and attract fish for longer.
If you haven’t fished with salted mussels yet, I would highly recommend giving it a try. You’ll be amazed by the results.
This is how to prepare and salt mussels for bait:
First, collect some mussels if you know where to find them. Alternatively, buy fresh ones from a supermarket.
Mussels are often quite cheap to buy. Bigger mussels are better and it’s best to find the type of mussels that also live in the area you intend to fish.
some freshly collected mussels
Once you have enough mussels - maybe a bucket full - you need to freeze them.
If you ever tried to get a fresh live mussel out of its shell, you know that it’s almost impossible without making a huge mess.
However, when you freeze fresh mussels, it’s a bit like cooking them. During the freezing process, they’ll open up.
Have a bucket or plastic container ready with some holes poked through the bottom.
Also, get a bag full of non iodised table salt. You’ll need quite a bit of salt - so get a big bag :-)
Once the mussels are partially open, you can take them out of the freezer and let them defrost.
Then take a knife and cut along the inside of each shell to detach the mussel.
Now open the shell carefully and try to work out the mussel without tearing it apart.
removing mussels from shells after freezing
It’s a bit of work - but while you do it, you can dream of those nice big fish you’ll be soon catching with them.
Put each mussel into the bucket and pour salt over it. You want to have each mussel pretty much covered in salt before you add the next one.
Continue to layer mussels and salt into your bucket and then finish with a final layer of salt.
Place the bucket onto some sort of drip tray to collect the water that will be withdrawn from the mussels.
You don’t want that all running around in your kitchen or garage.
Then check every day if there’s still water coming out. Once the water has stopped, the mussels are done.
It takes maybe a few days. Afterwards, you can remove the mussels, shake off the excess salt and put them into a bait container or ziplock bag until you use them for fishing. No need to keep them in the fridge or freeze them. Because of the salting they are now preserved and will keep for a long time. You’ll notice that their consistency is now quite rubbery and they are much easier to handle.
A tip for using them as bait is to get some bait elastic. This is a thin rubber band on a spindle.
You can wrap the salted mussels around your hook and then use a little bait elastic to tie them on so that they won't fall off easily.
That’s all there’s to it. It’s very easy and super effective to make your own salted mussel bait.
I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial. Good luck with the mussels and happy fishing.
and the result
Before you salt your own mussels, make sure to watch our full video about salting mussels on Youtube: