Fishing Mussels

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Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
Fishing Mussels
<p>Recently I fished for river redhorse, and like anyone who targeted river redhorse, I battled a plague&nbsp;of smallmouth bass. I swear in some places they are worse than locusts. Hengelaar&nbsp;mentioned that on his <a href="">roundtail chub</a> trip he used clams to catch chubs&nbsp;and avoid catching bass.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;River redhorse have pharyngeal teeth adapted for crushing clams. If bass won&#39;t bite clams they would be the perfect bait...</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 400px; height: 296px; " /></p> <p>But it is illegal to collect live clams in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. So, I was off to Dragon Star Foods to find some seafood/ bait. After wandering around looking at all sorts of frozen, fresh and live animals I finally found what I was looking for.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New Zealand Green Mussels&nbsp;</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 500px; height: 394px; " /></p> <p>They are available shelled and frozen for about $5/ lb. After two fishing trips I still have half the package. During one of those trips Hengelaar personally used over 2 dozen worms. Cost wise, the mussels compare well to standard crawlers.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now I have my perfect bait... &nbsp;How do I attach such a soft and rubbery blob to a hook? After some extensive experimentation (read: missed strikes) I have developed a pretty effective presentation.&nbsp;</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 500px; height: 500px; " /></p> <p>Take a #4 octopus (non-circle). Lay the shank against the flat part of the mussel with the eye near the circular abductor mussel. Next, take a standard rubber band and wrap it around the hook and mussel, working from the eye down. If possible do one wrap above the hook eye and one below the bend. These extra wraps help keep the mussel from sliding &nbsp;up or down the hook. At this point, the mussel should be straight and firmly attached to the hook. The soft flesh will bulge out below the bend of the hook. On large mussels I pinch the bulge and tear off the thick part (leaving behind the rubbery &quot;lips&quot;). Making the bait a little thinner seems to increase the hook up percentage. This technique worked so well that in two days of fishing I never had my bait stolen. I would even let shortheads&nbsp;nip at the bait, and they still couldn&#39;t get it off the hook.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rivers seem to really love the mussel smell. Usually the rivers would react to the bait like a clam seeking missile. The bass would bite on a mussel too, but only when it was moving. So instead of catching 1,000 bass for every redhorse the ratio dropped to 1 bass per river. Another benefit was visibility, the mussel meat is white enough that it shows up well on dark rocks or deep water.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If a photo is worth a thousand words, than this picture should be twice as valuable as what I wrote.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 500px; height: 667px; " /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
the pyromaniac
the pyromaniac's picture
Hmmm... I think I may have
Hmmm... I think I may have found the presentation that will allow me to consistently catch redhorses (which I suck at)... Thanks for sharing!




Let there be fire!

TonyS's picture
cool findings - if I can

cool findings - if I can bring myself to use those mussels as bait (rather than eating them) I'll surely give it a try. 


rubber band is good idea - sounds like a place where you could try thin dacron or braid and do a half-hitch rig:


I think I showed you guys that rig on smelt when ya came up - really keeps the bait on.  Even on the days when the water is warmer and I need a 70 yard+ cast and the goofy currents are trying to rip the bait off. 

Deftik's picture
Thanks for the good read!

Thanks for the good read! Like the MacGyver setup.

Moose439's picture
Cool post man, makes me want

Cool post man, makes me want to hair rig a mussle...

DavidG's picture
Very resourceful/clever way

Very resourceful/clever way to bait a hook! 


DavidG Blog:

SuperFrog's picture
Awesome stuff man!

Awesome stuff man!

It's illegal to collect clams in Minnesota??? Damn, I'm going to prison.  I must have used a couple hundred clams as bait as a kid.



It doesn't matter what you're fishing for, just as long as you're out there doing it.

Corey's picture
Great Work

An essential new tool for the roughfisher's arsenal.  Thanks a ton for sharing the killer bait, and for the detailed rigging tips which were no doubt hard-earned.  Redhorse beware ... Winter is Coming.

Gunnar's picture
Awesome work. I love the

Awesome work. I love the spirit of invention and problem solving around here. Of science meeting hare-brained scheming. Can't wait to try this.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers:

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Jason E.
Jason E.'s picture
Wow, what a cool idea.  A

Wow, what a cool idea.  A sort of "natural-bait meets lure" type of presentation. 

Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
Learned Something New

At the end of my last trip the mussels were very defrosted and were starting to become more aromatic. To me, they just smelled like better bait. Assuming that they would be good enough for next time I took them home and re-froze them. 


Yesterday, I headed out for a repeat performance. But to my surprise the rivers seemed less enthusiastic about the bait. Maybe a passing sniff, but no takes. And they were definitely not seeking the bait out. Several rivers showed no interest in mussels that were inches from their nose! 




Then it clicked... the smell had changed from "fresh live easy meal" to "dead fish of unknown age". From now on I am going to repackage my frozen mussels into trip sized bags. Maybe I can use the ripe ones for walleye bait... 

Muskymags's picture

I bet they'd work good for cats also!

Cast_and_Blast's picture
Great idea Tyler.  Do other

Great idea Tyler.  Do other Redhorse species take the clams too?  Does it keep the Sheephead away also?

J Dunfee
J Dunfee's picture
Awesome man!

Awesome man!

I've played around with that idea quite a few times, but never actually brought myself to experiment with it. I think you've got it down.

Can't argue with the results either lol


Freshwater Drum (aka Sheepshead, Gasper Goo, etc) are also mussel hunters, you would probably get more with this!

Good Idea......if done right.


As a fisherman, I find this to be a great idea!!

As an Aquatic Biologist, I am compelled to issue this plee. I have done much work with the mussels of the Midwest in my short time as a professional and can tell you that many mussel species are considered threatened or endangered either Federally and at the state level. Many of these look a like, and to the trained and untrained eye, can be hard to distuinguish a common species from one that would find you a hefty fine if found with. Buying them from the store, great idea. But if you find yourself with out bait and a giant redhorse in front of you, try an Asian Clam. (Google searches will find you many pictures) They are non native and can find them in most watersheds.


You didn't hear any of this from me...........