Why you should stop using soft plastic bait

As awareness in the impact of plastic pollution to waterways and the creatures that live there grows, an area of growing concern is the use of soft plastic baits. This article reviews the problem areas and provides guidance on soft plastic bait alternatives.

Problems with Soft Plastics

There are several problem areas with the use of soft plastic bait:

  • What happens to the fish that eat part of the plastic? and then the fish that eat them?
  • What happens to the soft plastic that breaks off and stays in the waterways?
  • What happens to the broken soft plastics?

But why are these problem areas? aren’t soft plastics a better alternative because they don’t deplete the ecosystem by reducing the amount of bait harvested?

It is true that the use of soft plastics reduces the quantity of bait consumed for fishing. And they are cheap, typically longer lasting than fresh or frozen bait and they work.  The issue is that the environmental cost is too high when compared to the benefits.

Environmental Cost

The reason for the concern is because traditional soft plastics use PVC which is a non-biodegradable plastic. This means that the PVC stays in the environment and can even start to build up concentration levels over time.

I know what you are thinking, if we switched to biodegradable soft plastics then this would solve the PVC problem and there would be no environmental cost. Sadly this isn’t the case.

There are newer types of soft plastic in the market which claim to be more biodegradable due to the use of a different polymer, namely polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), however there are claims that these plastics only dissolve in water temperatures in excess of 60 degrees. So unless you are fishing in a thermal pool then it is best to avoid petroleum based soft plastic bait.

Petroleum-Based Soft Plastic Bait Alternatives

So what is the solution? well a return to live and frozen bait is not the long term solution. The damage to ecosystems where live bait is harvested (such as nippers) is already at risk due to the increased numbers of humans catching live bait. Similarly, given the higher numbers of humans who use soft plastics, a change to frozen bait would also add pressure to the stocks of bait.

Future Goal

The long term goal is for manufacturers to get onboard with bioplastics (not petroleum based) and the quickest way for this to happen is to raise awareness. 

Today’s Solution

Until bioplastics become commercially available then the best solutions are:

  1. Raise Awareness. This is the most important step you can take. By doing the below steps (please do!) you impact your own use of soft plastics but when you raise awareness YOUR SINGLE STEP IS AMPLIFIED 3 TO 100 TIMES (OR MORE). Tell your fishing friends, tell your family, talk to your local tackle shop, contact manufactures, contact your government (fishing regulator, environment, local to federal), start a campaign.  
  2. Soft Plastics in your Tackle Box. If you have a current stock pile of soft plastics then the best solution is to contact the supplier and manufacturer and ask them to advise you on how to recycle or reuse the soft plastic bait. Don’t forget to tell them why and to push the need for a bioplastic replacement.
  3. Use Soft Plastic Bait Alternatives. Replace the soft plastic bait in your tackle box by making own bioplastic bait, or buy if you are lucky to find a supplier. See the youtube video below on how to make a soft bioplastic bait.
  4. Too Time Poor for Step 3? If like most people you don’t have the time or means to make your own bioplastic bait then the next best options are butcher’s bait and other household food, lures and frozen bait. 

How to Make Bioplastic Bait

So how to make bioplastic bait? well you need a mold, glycerol, gelatin and tannin (to increase the bioplastic resistance to dissolving). You can also add colouring and even try fish oil as an attractant (use less glycerol).

See the video below for instructions on how to make bioplastic bait.

How to Make Bioplastic Mold

Don’t have a mold and don’t want to spend $30 to $100 on a mold? the good news is that you can make them. The easiest and cheapest is creating a mold around a soft plastic you already have or using a 3D printer.

See the video below for steps on how to make a mold using plaster.

 Further Information

Thanks for reading. If YOU have some hacks to the bioplastic bait then please leave a comment below.

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