How to Sew a Mackerel for Bait

by Don Davis
Mackerel are used as bait for big fish like marlin.

Mackerel are used as bait for big fish like marlin.

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Mackerel are rigged to fishing lines with big hooks to catch big fish. The fastest rig you can make on a rolling deck is to fasten three big hooks down one side of a mackerel with rubber bands. Another common technique is to thread a big hook through the nose of a live or fresh mackerel. Still other rigs involve cutting the bait fish open to allow water to pass through the bait when it is trolled. And then there is sewing the bait back together after removing the spine so the bait moves as if alive. You sew bait rigs with a big needle called a rigging needle and a kind of heavy thread called rigging floss, or rigging string.

Items you will need

  • Sharp knife
  • De-boner
  • Rigging needle
  • 70-pound-test waxed rigging floss
  • Icepick
  • #18 circle hook
  • Side-cutting pliers
  • 300-pound-test monofilament
Step 1

Remove the mackerel's eyes with a sharp knife. Cut a slit in the bait fish's belly just behind the head with the knife.

Step 2

Stick your index finger in the slit. Find the mackerel's spine and break it. Remove your finger.

Step 3

Push a de-boner into the slit and over the broken end of the spine. Forcefully shove the de-boner down the mackerel's spine all the way to the tail.

Step 4

Push the tail to one side to break the spine at the end of the de-boner. Twist and pull the de-boner and the spine out of the fish. Removing the spine allows the bait to move naturally in the water.

Step 5

Sew the slit in the mackerel closed using a rigging needle and 70-pound-test waxed rigging floss. Make the first stitch through the mackerel's eye sockets. Remove the needle from the floss and tie the floss ends with two overhand knots.

Step 6

Poke a hole through the mackerel's nose from top to bottom with the rigging needle. Remove the needle.

Step 7

Shove an icepick through the same hole to enlarge the hole. Insert a #18 circle hook completely through the hole.

Step 8

Cut a foot-long piece of rigging floss with side-cutting pliers. Tie the middle of this piece of rigging floss to the bottom half of the hook where it pokes through the mackerel's head.

Step 9

Sew both ends of this piece of rigging floss through the bait fish's body using a rigging needle and tie the ends with an overhand knot. Rigging the hook this way keeps the hook from moving as you troll.

Step 10

Clip all loose ends with side-cutter pliers. Tie or clip the hook to a 300-pound-test monofilament leader.

About the Author

Don Davis has been a professional writer since 1977. He has had numerous writing jobs, including writing news and features for the "Metrowest Daily News" and "Los Angeles Herald-Examiner." Davis has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Indiana State University.

Photo Credits

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