The debate over Hardback crab vs Peeler for Smoothounds has been going on for years and I would like to share my experience hunting Smoothounds to shed some light to the Debate.
Smoothounds: Start to come into the Solent as early as May and leave as late as September. The bigger specimens are normally caught in June and July when the water is at it's warmest. The reason they move into the UK waters is to hunt down the crabs during their shedding process hence the debate Hardback vs Peeler
Peelers cost a pretty penny and will brake the bank, although you can collect them it isn't the easiest bait to find unless you know where to look. The Peeler is unique because it is going through a process of shedding it's shell and takes on water which softens the crab. It is most definitely one of the favorite bait choices and can be frozen.
Hardbacks Cost nothing and can be collected by simply using some squid in a crab drop net around piers or simply lifting rocks on low tide. They can be collected and stored in a bucket with a little bit of seaweed and sea water for over a week as long as you change the water every couple of days. (Not the best bait frozen)
While most fisherman say smell is everything others say natural live bait is best.
Fish are obviously attracted by scent and can be attracted to an area by the scent of bait. Live bait like fish give off vibrations which also attracts fish. I'm not to sure crabs such as Hardbacks give off vibrations and I'm no biologist but they must give off something. I personally think it's a sight thing with a mixture of Scent and movement.
The reason I'm writing this article is because my catch rate on hardbacks is unreal compared to Peelers. I must admit the area I fish is notoriously proven to be a Smoothound hunting ground So they are most definitely there. I've even done a little experiment using peelers on one rod and Hardbacks on another over a few fishing sessions. Hardbacks won outright and my theory is the fact the crab is a live and moves about sends the Smoothound into a feeding frenzy.
I caught well over 50 Smoothounds in 2015 from the kayak and most of them where caught on Hardback crabs. Tackle shops and bait collectors obviously make a living from selling bait and will probably say Peelers are best but trust me the best bait is free and you can collect it yourself in just 10-15 minutes. There is also a nice feeling you get catching fish with bait you collected yourself. So get out and collect some hardbacks or even get the kids to do it for you. Catching Smoothounds on a kayak is awesome and if you not anchored up the bigger ones will give you a slay ride.
How to catch Smoothounds