After the last trip’s success catching smoothhounds out of Minehead, I promised myself that this time I’d run a test to compare shop bought peeler crab against hardback crabs that I’d caught myself. I usually fish two uptide rods at Minehead in any case so it would be a simple matter of using peeler on one rod and hardback crab on the other and seeing if there was any discernible difference between the two baits.
I only bought a dozen peeler crab for this trip but stocked up in one of the local estuaries with a bucket full of hardback crabs. I made sure I had more than enough for Mike and myself. Now we just needed the smoothhounds to be hungry!
A small tide and fantastic weather allowed us to get out offshore straight away without needing to fish inshore whilst waiting for the tide to slacken. Perfect conditions all round!
Both Mike and myself both fished crab exclusively all day and were into smoothhounds straight away. I had a savage bite on the hardback rod on the first cast that I somehow missed. Followed by a fish on the peeler that put a good bend in the rod before I lost the fish.
Mike didn’t make the same mistakes and quickly took a commanding lead in the proceedings by landing a few hounds. From then on we both had bites and caught fish steadily throughout the day. I even had a small thornback ray on peeler crab. In the end I had 6 hounds on the peeler crab and 4 on hardback, whilst Mike had a dozen or more hounds, with a fairly even split between peeler and hardback. The end result being that on this admittedly small scale and fairly un-scientific comparison there didn’t appear to be any discernible difference between the performance of peeler crab or hardback crab for the smoothhounds.
The only other fish caught all day were a couple of doggies and the Thornback Ray I had. These all came to peeler crab – none on the hardback. This may have been because some of the hardbacks were pretty massive beasts and being hard would present quite a challenge to the ever pervasive doggies. The size of some of the hardbacks may have been another factor in the number of missed bites that I experienced today (we missed as many bites as fish landed).
The end result was that if fishing for smoothhounds and wanting to minimise nuisance from dogfish I’d fish hardback crabs without hesitation. Whilst from our limited test they didn’t seem to be better than peeler crab they also didn’t seem to be worse. They were free however, as opposed to £10 for a dozen… and for that reason alone, I’ll definitely be taking a bucket of hardbacks on the next trip. Looking forward to the next trip already!