3Ts: Salting your own Pilchards


If you’ve ever tried to use a pilchard that has been frozen and thawed out a few times you soon realise it doesn’t work. A better option if you have left over pilchards is to salt them down, in my experience salted bait is underrated, it works great on most species.

The recipe and process is pretty simple.

1. You spread the pillies out on a tray of some sort, something without holes in it is best.
2. You can use the kitchen sink but I would advise you do it when the better half is not home.
3. You then sprinkle salt over them – course or rock salt is best but I know people that use pool salt because it is cheap and readily available.A heavy sprinkle best describes the amount of salt, you don’t need to cake it over them.
4. After a few hours covered in salt you’ll find a lot of juice runs out of them.
You do need to make sure the juices drain away from the pillies, you don’t want them lying in the juice. I found the best way is just to tilt the tray.
6. After about six hours, give them a light brush off and put the well drained pillies in a container and freeze them. I wrap mine in newspaper because it helps prevent freezer burn.
Pilchards 1

Next time you go fishing, defrost the pillies and you will find they are in excellent condition, tougher than fresh pilchards and catch just as many fish. If they are very hard and rubbery, you have left them too long in the salt and if they are mushy, you haven’t left them long enough in the salt. I know tailor fishermen that buy their pilchards a week early and salt them down before they go fishing. They don’t use fresh pilchards, they find the salted pilchards work just as well as fresh one but stay on the hook a lot better. The same technique works well with left over flesh baits as well.


About Dave "Nugget" Downie

Dave ‘Nugget’ Downie was raised in the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales and grew up fishing for everything from local trout on fly in the Snowy lakes through to land based game on the south coast.


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