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How to make a berley bucket dispenser for the rocks

By Scott CushmanNZ Fishing World
How to make a berley bucket dispenser for the rocks

Take the humble bucket and turn it into a tool that can dramatically improve your berley’s performance from the rocks.

It wasn’t that long ago that New Zealand fishermen started to grasp the advantages of deploying berley to draw fish to their location. In the good ol’ days there were so many fish and fewer fishermen that it didn’t matter whether you had berley or not.

Today bait fishermen are heavily reliant on berley to attract fish to their location and help get the fish in the mood to feed.

The smaller baitfish like yellow-eyed mullet, piper, mackerel and sweep (maomao) invariably turn up first but quickly scatter when kahawai or kingfish make an appearance.

Trevally and snapper will start snooping around and can be either brave or shy depending on the day. Sometimes they will be in plain view or even on the surface slurping morsels from the trail and sometimes they will be ghost-like, hugging the bottom underneath the smaller fish and reluctant to come closer.

For the land-based fisherman there are limitations to how much you can carry to your spot and so making it last is certainly advantageous.

New invention born

I was fishing with a couple of rock fishermen a few summers ago and I couldn’t help noticing their approach to berley broadcasting.

They had taken a white 10-litre plastic bucket with a lid, drilled a few small (2cm) holes in it and tied it off the rock (with the berley bomb inside). This was a great idea as it meant the berley wasn’t bashed and dispersed over a short period of time and still leached a good trail into the surrounding snapper habitat.

I thought about it a bit more and developed my own version. I used a 20-litre bucket with lid, drilled larger (6cm) holes in it and added a few modifications.

The problem I found was that when the swell got heavy and the bucket was smashed against the rocks, the lid could pop off and the berley and lid would float away.

The next thing I did was to drill two small holes – one in the lid and one in the bucket and attach the two with 24kg monofilament and a snap swivel.

Another less recyclable approach is to use electrical tape to tape the lid down. After more use and abuse it also became likely that the wire handle would dislodge from its side anchor points so another safety rope was tied through the holes in the sides of the bucket and on to the main line in case the handle detached.

This was particularly important in heavy swell. The last modification was an empty two-litre milk bottle tied to the bucket so that it would keep the bucket floating on the surface. The float also meant the wind could push the whole set up further out when there was an offshore wind. 

Testing begins

The first trip where I took my modified berley bucket out was a land-based trip up north in March.

I had budgeted on two 4kg bombs a day and was hoping the bucket could dispense a berley bomb over a four-hour period. Previous trips had seen me dispensing by hand, which could get tiresome by day three and four.

Rocking the bucket

Dispensing the bomb in the bucket and attaching the bucket to a long rope, I threw it into the sea and observed.

When the water had defrosted the bomb a little, I noticed the medium (half meter) swell wave action was perfect at rocking the bucket enough to consistently leach berley out of the holes.

The wave action rolling off the rocks also pushed the bucket a good 20 metres off the ledge, which increased the area of berley penetration. It was certainly more than what I could accomplish by throwing scoops by hand or tying the bomb off at my feet.

It was looking very promising and it wasn’t long before our red friends started to investigate the yummy smells wafting across their path. At one stage there was a 2kg snapper swimming up to the bucket and trying to rip chunks of berley from out of the holes.

Controlled release

After some more trial and error I found that the rate of berley released could also be controlled to some degree by the size of holes punctured in the plastic that held the bomb together.

A heavier swell also increased the release rate. In some locations where the swell was almost non-existent, putting more or larger puncture holes in the plastic bag was necessary to get a consistent rate of release.

An offshore wind helped float the bucket further off the ledge. An occasional flick of the rope could add to the wave action whenever the fishing action slowed down.

Salmon berley was more fluid than say bonito or mackerel and didn’t need large holes under the same conditions.

Casting out to the bucket’s location also meant the fish were less likely to have a shadow cast over them and be spooked by people on the rocks. Shadows from above often scare fish as it rings the predator alarm bell.        

Berley bucket on board

I haven’t tried using the berley bucket invention off a kayak or boat but I believe it could have some interesting applications in areas that fish are super spooky.

By drifting the bucket further away from the craft you are fishing in could help draw in the more suspicious fish like big snapper, for example.

There may be other modifications one could make but the current Mark II version is very effective at broadcasting berley over a larger area and making a berley bomb last four or more hours.

Fishing at this time of year, berley becomes even more essential in drawing slow functioning fish to your position and enticing them to bite. Grab a bucket and have a go.

The down sides

There were a few downsides, like tangling the rope with a fishing line when the berley bucket was floated further off the ledge. This wasn’t a big problem, the most annoying issue was when retrieving a baitless hook and it snagged the rope and everything had to be pulled in. Using a rope that floats will help reduce this problem.

The other issue that needed to be addressed was when the bucket was continually smashed against the rocks, splits would develop in the plastic. This kind of damage is harder to avoid, so you either try and float it further offshore or revert to hand dispensing the berley.

Of course a bucket with holes doesn’t hold water or defrosted berley as well as one without so it doesn’t have many other uses.

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