To be honest, cod will take most baits offered if the mood takes them, from lugworm, ragworm and mussels through through to squid, mackerel and peeler crab. There is one bait however that is an underated cod killer and that is the hermit crab. Whether used on its own or married with another type of bait in a potent cocktail, these predatory fish go nuts for them.
Where to get them? – Some tackle shops will stock a supply of a stock of hermits frozen in their shells but without doubt fresh are the way to go and are easy enough to procure through the right contacts. It is well worth taking a trip down to your local harbour as the crab potters come back with their hauls as many get a large supply as a by-catch whilst targeting edible crabs and perhaps lobster. Even if they do tend to ditch them at sea, you may be able to work a deal where they retain a few for your use.
Why not just use peeler crab? – Peeler crab is a pretty pricey bait at the best of time with a single crab retailing at 75p each during the summer when supply is plentiful. In winter supply and demand pressures kick in and if anything the price per crab will likely reach £1, if not higher. In comparison you can pick up frozen hermit crab from bait suppliers for around 30-40p each. Even better, if you are able to come to an agreement with your local crab potter/trawler skipper, a crisp £10 note could get you around 60 of the little devils. At 16p each, it’s a bargain!
How to present them? – A pennel rig really does help with presentation and bait elastic is an absolute essential if you want your offering to survive the cast.
The first challenge however is to coax the shy hermit crab out the shell which is sometime easier said than done.
Occasionally a little bit of brute force with either a hammer or a rock is necessary to break the shell away. Other times you will be able to tease it out by pulling gently.
The bulk of the hermit crab is a fleshy sack that oozes with flavoursome juice so take care not to damage this too much, I like to keep the legs and claw on as something to hook into. Two hermits make a decent sized bait and are more than adequate especially if you have threaded on some lugworm or a whole squid before hand.
Secure the lot with some bait elastic – you can pull it quite tight around the legs but be careful around the juicy main body. Without doubt hermit crab provides one of the most scent laden bait out there. Don’t be scared to put a really big bait out there for the cod as even your average sized codling has a mouth big enough to take the lot on a 5/0 hook.
The only drawback to this bait is the same as many other delicate baits in that it can get washed out in a short period of time meaning regular re-baiting. One way to cater for this is to have detachable traces so you can bait up the next one whilst the line is in the water. This is a great tactic for maximising fishing time.
So save your pennies and opt for hermit crab – the results will be well worth it!