“Mouldy Old Dough” remember that one?
It was an early 70’s hit for UK band Lieutenant Pigeon and to be fair to them, it probably had nothing whatsoever to do with fish nutrition, the title being an adaptation of the 1920s jazz phrase, “vo-de-o-do” and that, as far as I know is its only parallel.
I’m talking about mouldy bait, slightly off, a bit furry, musty odorous and predigested verses totally fresh and sterile. The significant if not obvious difference divides opinion amongst anglers as to what works best and what doesn’t but is it all bad?
I don’t think so.
Mouldy old dough, or indeed any kind of bait that’s undergone or going down the inevitable enzymatic conversion route – pigeon dirt included, irrespective of ‘rank’ (see what I did there?), can sometimes work to the anglers advantage. Its just a question of knowing what grows on what and a bit of common sense!
I believe a lot of mould is beneficial for fish, some even prefer it, so much so that it would be my first choice as a bait followed closely by live and natural baits which I’m convinced has caught me plenty more fish over the years than what I used to catch with fresh. Even the two or three day old opened tin of corn seems to work better same as my own preference for a bit of leftover stew. It doesn’t have to have a furry jacket or well past its sell by, a little out of date is all you need and the longer the better without doing any harm same as some ‘off’ food is beneficial for humans, or at least it can be given a bit of common sense and understanding. Example you wouldn’t use a week old toxic piece of rancid meat on the hook that stinks to high heaven, but you might a well hung piece of venison or a year old bit of mouldy blue cheese?
Remember too that many friendly bacteria will compete and stay-off the nasty ones example penicillin… a case of knowing what grows on what. Some Penicillium species make friendly things like antibiotics and blue cheese, others make powerful mycotoxins like penitrems and mycophenolic acid.
What about the white mould that you sometimes see, is it safe?
Depends what it is but you can’t assume by looking at it that it just turns into sugars (whoever came up with that one?) some of them produce toxins which is the point I’m trying to make, however many cheeses and dried continental sausages contain white edible fur too.
Some moulds are edible (mushroom fungi) and some are not. I wouldn’t trust mould at all unless I could positively identify it, bread and cheese and those continental sausages being the only exception I can think of off the top of my head.
A lot of people think that a mould is a mould is a mould, but that’s just not so.
Toxins are a bi-product of normal metabolic processes of bacteria. There are many such toxins not easily identified which are harmful to life and many more bacteria (the vast majority) in nature which are harmless and/or beneficial and produce fewer toxins example many yeasts and probiotics.
Many people believe that toxins and bacteria are one and the same they’re not, toxins are a bi-product and many bacteria are essential to life itself.
I can personally assure anyone reading this that Laguna spends a great deal of time researching and testing the products that we produce. We have our own laboratory where we grow and culture ‘interesting’ things, we have access to and pick the brains of academics and consult with nutritionists and microbiologists (one of our European distributors is a marine biologist for example), we have also discovered a few things ourselves on the way too not all being beyond the average anglers understanding; such as why salt is attractive to fish in our bait and that potassium citrate found in bananas is better and that olbus (containing clove oil) on the anglers hands is repulsive. We spend a great deal of time and effort insuring that our products are safe and use only the best food-grade ingredients. We don’t profess to know everything but we understand enough to know that a predigestion process is preferred by fish and we avoid synthetics and artificial preservatives, preferring instead to harness and culture (from fresh starters) naturally safe organisms through fermentation and enzymatic activity.
Why do we bother to know these things?
Because its ethical and responsible, interesting and cool. As a company it gives us a competitive advantage in a highly saturated market where poor bait ingredients and boilies seem to be the norm – inadvertently (or sometimes intentionally) produced by almost everyone starting a rolling company from their garage.
Plus the wife likes to see me in a white coat occasionally, I think it reminds her of Winston her young gynaecologist!
But seriously, I denied myself up until now for years, the convenience of using a neatly formed perfectly spherical boilie. I didn’t even whittle them down or fathom them into random shapes and sizes either, certainly avoided commercially bought ones using the conventional production methods that sell by the million.
Laguna now produce a soluble paste and base mix called fiz™ (double activated) – no eggs required, no oil and no boiling just add water, and our latest for this season BUNKERS™ (our new ready-made boilies, first on the market) are made with whole eggs and a certain ‘food grade substance’ that reacts chemically with the albumen (its really just a bit of clever food science) to form a then soluble gelatinous sticky mixture with a long shelf life. We simply incorporate this with our base mix (previously hydrolysed to make the powdered particles soluble and safer for the fish to digest) producing a quality boilie which is soft boiled (actually simmered for just a few seconds) that lasts a good few hours on the hair before breaking down.
Fresh or frozen?
As for freeze thaw processes and boilies, its true that unless you make and prepare baits yourself you cannot guarantee safety and trust plays a big part in what they might consist of. But my own personal opinion on commercially bought shelf life -v- frozen bait (yet another contentious debate amongst anglers) is that air-dried shelf life bait (with or without preservatives) generally keeps longer, I emphasize; ‘keeps longer’ than a repeatedly frozen/thawed and refrozen-again bait – due to the lack of moisture present. But the traditional shelf-life baits are also less attractive to fish due to poor solubilities and lack of biotics – our moist long shelf-life BUNKERS™ being the only exception as far as I’m aware.
Many fish love bacteria (of the friendly kind) unfortunately freezing will kill them along with most of the bad ones, they can detect their presence in the water even at very low levels same as they can with amino acids so its probably worth bearing that in mind but they will also avoid baits that are rank and harmful and intolerable, same as they will avoid areas of pollution if they are able to but will also readily eat s*** (a predigested meal) because its nutritious.
Even our well fed tank fish chase the bums of the other fish in the tank!
What a waste
Many oriental Aqua-culturists are the worlds expert fish keepers, they commonly suspend chicken coops over lakes as a ready source of feed for fish ultimately intended for human consumption. Its called recycling, its self sustaining and its ethical. Its more or less the same processes used at the sewerage works where bacteria breaks down waste into consumer products like fertiliser and clean drinking water, essentially you pee down the toilet and it comes back out of the tap for you to drink again. Its the same with the nitrogen cycle in a fish tank or a lake.
Its just a case of safety, knowing and understanding what’s in a bait (food) and what’s likely to grow on it to start with and how long its left to fester. Easier said than done if you don’t make your own and are not privy to what goes in them.
We don’t roll or produce baits with raw eggs. In actual fact, up until recently we didn’t use eggs at all preferring other natural binders instead like gluten and certain edible tree saps used in our PONDBOND™ for example. We discovered and developed over a two year period, the inclusion with whole eggs and a certain ‘food grade substance’ that reacts chemically to form a then soluble gelatinous sticky mixture with natural preserving qualities. We simply incorporate this with our base mix (previously hydrolysed to make the powdered particles soluble and safer for the fish to consume) producing a quality boilie with an estimated three-year shelf-life which is soft boiled (actually simmered for just a few seconds) that lasts a good few hours on the hair before breaking down. Its certainly different using a natural reactive process that produces an edible boilie that supports live bacteria, similar in some ways to a probiotic but without the need for freezing.
Despite their convenience, I’ve never been a fan of boilies due to the insolubility of eggs and potential for locking in flavours and the potential for moisture to promote the growth of salmonella. Managing to reduce the egg by 50% in a soft boil recipe is a real breakthrough which produces a much more soluble product that lasts 24hrs on the lake bed. This year we’ll be testing them out against some of the other ‘better’ known brands. Let me know if you want to try some.
For the same reasons mentioned above, I’ve never used peanuts (solely due to the high-risk potential of micotoxins) but we do culture our own cheeses and yeasts to encourage predigestion in other baits and we use hydrolysis to break down anti-nutrients in our groundbaits which as far as I know; no other company appears to consider important enough to bother with? I guess its an expensive way of doing things but it works for us for a few penny’s extra and that’s all that matters as far as safety’s concerned – no different really to the consideration many anglers give to the correct preparation of particles.
A ground particle still contains anti-nutrients and needs a good soaking!
The best bait?
There is no BEST bait, only better. The components of cheese and bread, fermented tiger nuts (containing sugars and yeasts), amino acids (maggots and worms both produce amino acids naturally which fish find attractive), bacterial and natural enzymatic predigestion processes (without chemical catalyst)…. these are the best baits out there!
As a side note: Chopped worm is much better than whole wriggly worms and cleaned whole maggots are better due to the lack of ammonia present. Please don’t chop live maggots, maggots secrete toxic ammonia designed to kill bacteria which competes for the food maggots eat and fish don’t like ammonia – it burns their skin, the reason why cleaned maggots work better? The significance being; despite their stupidity, fish have preferences and can detect toxins although some, particularly juveniles, will probably eat anything – at least once, but its more the exception than the rule so if your a specimen angler it might be something worth considering.
Are we inadvertently killing the good ones?
Many organisms need moisture and warmth to grow and a source of nutrition, optimum pH levels, oxygen etc. A frozen bait will draw moisture into the bait and when thawed provides the ideal environment for mould to grow if left out for extended periods of time, but it also (in the absence of artificial preservatives) encourages enzymatic activity too which fish will find nutritious. Refreeze and it will kill (or suspend growth of) the vast majority of the bacteria present (those that are susceptible to low temperatures), meanwhile any toxins produced through metabolic processes will accumulate and remain in or on the bait surface. In other words; the more you freeze-thaw and refreeze the more toxins there will be so it certainly has its limitations but again it depends on the levels of moisture present – even a few Xerophiles can grow in places that are too dry and hostile for your average fungus.
Left over air dried (shelf life) bait on the other hand, apart from any residual moisture shouldn’t get wet so will generally be safer if your concerned about the toxins because most bacteria needs moisture to grow and colonise. However thawed freezer and rehydrated shelf life boilies and wetted pellets are much more soluble and attractive to fish than a hard air dried bait. Its the ingredients, temperature, humidity and time left out of the freezer that will largely determine what kind of bacteria or mould grows. Rancidity of oils also needs to be considered too as these have potential for toxins to accumulate through oxidation. Neither would I use frozen to thaw and refreeze leftovers that I hadn’t made myself or refreezing of rehydrated bait that encourages festering to a point where it becomes toxic. In fact I don’t freeze anything other than deadbaits usually and prefer to leave mine (including meat), marinating indefinitely at room temperature in SAC juice™.
If in doubt use the freshest home made bait you can lay your hands on and be patient… waiting for that washed-out look to happen!
Further to the peanut debate, as discussed with forum member and Laguna consultant; Colin Gordon a couple of years ago, the reasons why I don’t advocate using peanuts is because they are prone to rancidity and harbour a particular nasty mycotoxin that has high risk potential to kill birds and fish. Your peanut butter might be okay as its screened more thoroughly it is hoped or at least irradiated by the Atomic Gardening Society or something.
Its a question of the levels present, cereal crops meant for human consumption are generally low and safer.
Soil insect pests such as the lesser cornstalk borer infests peanuts beneath the soil by tunnelling in stems resulting in serious yield reductions. In addition, damaged portions of plants may become more susceptible to infection by toxic fungal pathogens leading to further reductions in yield and grade of peanuts. Peanuts are also grown and cultivated and stored in warm humid environments giving rise to the growth of fungus. Contamination of peanuts with mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins, is a worldwide problem that affects both food safety and agricultural economies.
A commonly approved insecticide is Rotenone derived from peanut mould – probably the most effective known fish killer on the planet!
Well read and little understood
I’ve read a lot over the years like many other anglers and realised that a lot of what’s been written doesn’t provide enough detail to explain why some baits work the way they do only that they do or don’t, or no reason at all left unexplained. I guess that’s why there’s so much controversy and differences of opinion? Misinformation and distrust is also to blame when all that’s left to do is to simply go out there and try for yourself and see if it works. If anything, anglers are a versatile and curious bunch and will often try and try and try…. until they discover for themselves something that works better than the time before. But remember, the more years you fish the more you forget things so keep notes if you can like all the best forgetful old anglers out there.
I’m not the best but I’m certainly getting older and more forgetful.
Given enough time and patience, I hope that some of you will come to realise like I have, that fresh bait is not necessarily the best bait and that fish (all kinds) prefer a predigested meal to aid a long and healthy life. These fish we catch are born with a limited reserve of enzymes in their gut and find it difficult to digest for themselves.
At the end of the day were all just anglers trying to catch bigger and better and more fish, but a little understanding might also help us in our quest to catch by asking ourselves what makes a fish tick? I admit to taking a scientific and biocentric view and my research takes me to far deeper places some would easily fall asleep to but we don’t all have to be chemists or fish biologists and nutritionists (or somnambulistic) to understand most of this stuff, it can be as simple or complicated as you want with our eyes wide open – we can all catch fish simply!
Good luck and thanks for reading thus far if you managed to, let me know in the comments below if you want more bed time reading.
~ Chris Wilson