The Australian sardine Sardinops sagax is better known among recreational fishermen as the pilchard or mulie.

Small ones may be incorrectly called bluebait.

Pilchards occur in the coastal waters of the southern half of Australia, forming large schools.

The pilchard is a hugely popular bait, being eaten by most predatory fish and large enough to cast unweighted.

Being soft and oily, pilchards can be mashed up for berley.

They are usually firm enough to use on ganged hooks as whole baits, or as part-portions on single hooks.

The trick with pilchards is to find a quality supply as poorly stored and handled pilchards will be soft to the point of being almost useless.

Good quality frozen pilchards are full-bodied, reasonably firm and undamaged.

They can be toughened considerably by salting but there effectiveness as a bait arguably declines.

If packet pilchards appear shrivelled they may have already been salted, or have been frozen for a long time.

Pilchard schools are occasionally affected by disease, when large numbers of dead fish wash up on shore.

Though they are a popular baitfish they are rarely harvested by anglers, but instead are bought in frozen blocks or smaller packets.

The quality varies hugely between sources.

Some fishmongers sell fresh pilchards, as they are eaten by people who enjoy the strong flavour and soft flesh.

Ganged hooks work well with this baitfish, choose your hook sizes according to the size of the pilchards.

Pilchards are ideal for catching tailor, Australian Australian salmon, mulloway, kingfish, tuna, silver trevally, bream and more.

Read more about the Australian sardine (pilchard) here.

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