Spices and herbs are integral to the sport fishing in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The regions of Himalayan valleys and Ganges-Brahmaputra delta are well known for its wide varieties of flora and fauna. Fish and fishing have paved the lifestyle of the people of these regions. Fishing with rods and reels has always been a favorite pastime activity among the people since long. We have lots of evidence to believe that game fishing and ayurvedic knowledge developed almost at parallel pace.
It is no wonder that Game Fishing in Indian Subcontinent is a blend of traditional knowledge and modern equipment. We still depend almost entirely on our traditional knowledge for making baits and rigs. It is really a matter of great enthusiasm and hard labor to prepare baits and ground-baits in this part of the world. And the range of ayurvedic herbal stuffs is so vast that it is really tough to choose the perfect ones from them. In this article I would like to briefly elaborate some commonly used herbs and spices and their most active chemical properties. The objective of this article is to help the interested anglers to choose wisely from the long list of spices and herbs extensively used here. I am sure that our Western friends, who mostly depend on bait companies would find this article useful.
One of the main reasons behind this article is to show our fellow anglers that some of these ingredients contain highly toxic chemicals that are not only harmful for the aquatic animals only but also for those who consume the fish caught using them. Besides, many of the spices and herbs contain almost identical phytochemical properties. That means, use of only one or two of such items is enough rather than using all of them. On the other hand, most of these herbs are actually used for their aromatic properties and they have no or very little nutritional values. And baits extensively loaded with aromatic ingredients rather than nutritional factors have quite a low success rate.
I must acknowledge that I am highly grateful to Mr. Ali H. Husaini of All India Game Fishing Association for his continuous concerns regarding unethical angling practices we randomly notice here. His ‘Catching an Indian Carp” series is a real milestone for understanding the various olfactory and dietary patterns of major Indian carps. The intention of this article is to help new anglers to choose their bait-ingredients wisely and intelligently and to provide them with an overall idea about how baits and ground-baits of this part of the world work. I acknowledge everyone who helped me to prepare this writing with information and sources. I would highly appreciate if anyone informs me about any misinformation or mistake regarding this piece or just providing with any missing information or suggestion to make this article richer. Thanks and happy fishing.
A Comprehensive List of Spices and Herbs Used in Game Fishing and Their Phytochemical Properties
1. Kaempferia galanga
Common English Name: Resurrection lilly, Sand ginger
Bengali: একাঙ্গী [Ekangi]
Kaempferia galanga is the most widely used plant in our local game fishing. It is an essential herb for making almost any type of ground-bait for carp fishing. Rhizomes of this plant are dried and grounded into powder and mixed with other ingredients to prepare ground-baits. It has a very distinct aromatic property. It contains cineol, borneol, 3-carene, camphene, kaempferol, kaempferide, cinnamaldehyde, p-methoxycinnamic acid, ethyl cinnamate, and ethyl p-methoxycinnamate. The plant has a great use in traditional ayurvedic treatments and and some regional cuisines. It has almost identical chemical contents as cinnamon which in addition with borneol, camphene and kaempferol gives its unique fragrance. However it is full of euphoric chemical compounds which cause serious effect in the central nervous systems of the animals.
It has been found in scientific research that this plant has the highest potential to attract rohu (Labeo rohita) and the second highest potential to attract catla (Catla catla). However, no effect of this plant has been found on mrigala.
2. Myristica fragrans
Common English: Nutmeg and Mace
Bengali: জায়ফল ও জৈত্রিক (যৈয়ত্রী) [Jayfal & Jaytrik]
Both Nutmeg and Mace come from the same plant. Mace is the reddish membrane that covers the actual nutmeg seed inside the fruit of the plant scientifically known as Myristica fragrans. Both the spices have a long historical use in cuisines and medicines. Grounded nutmeg seed is a rich source of camphene. About 60%-80% of all of its chemical properties is camphene which is widly used in the manufacture of fragrances and flavoring ingredient of foods. Camphene is a monoterpene and it has a high explosive property. A low amount of d-pinene, limonene, d-borneol, l-terpineol, geraniol, safrol, and myristicin composition has also been found in nutmeg. Myristicin is a highly potent euphoric chemical. Myristicin is a neurotoxin. Excessive use of nutmeg or mace can cause convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain. It is also reputed to be a strong deliriant. For these reasons, nutmeg has been banned in Saudi Arabia.
Nutmeg and mace have been used traditionally in carp baits for centuries in Bangladesh and the neighboring countries as an aromatic ingridient. But there is no scientific proof of its carp attracting property. However, the grounded nutmeg has a very low amount of saturated fat, vitamin-A, vitamin-B2, carbohydrate, calcium and magnesium. But their portion is so low that it has almost no effect as a feeding stimulant.
Cardamom is considered as one of the most extensively used spices in the world. Almost in every coulture of the world, it is a must spice to make any kind of exotic food. We have no clue about when cardamom was introduced as a carp bait ingredient. But it can be easily said that the culture was developed nowhere but in this sub-continent for the first time. It is a well proven bait additive in carp angling. Almost 55% of cardamom seeds is carbohydrate. It contains a high concentration of great vitamins like Pirodoxin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin-A and Vitamin-C. 19% of the mass of the seeds is protein.
It is a great source of invaluable minerals and electrolytes. Per 100g of cardamom seeds contain 1119mg of potassium. It is rich in minerals like calcium, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. Manganese aids in the formation of great digestive enzymes.
Its essential volatile oils are pinene, sabinene, myrcene, phellandrene, limonene, 1, 8-cineole, terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol. It is a true natural food attractant, feeding stimulant, taste enhancer with lots of benefiting properties.
All these make cardamom one of the greatest natural carp bait ingredient of all time. Our catla has been found to be highly attracted to cardamom.
4. Trigonella foenum-graecum
Common English: Fenugreek
Bengali: মেথি [Methi]
Perhaps fenugreek has the oldest bond with mankind. Its usage has been dated back in around 5000 BC in Egypt, Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.
Fenugreek is advised and used as a carp bait additive all over the world. Major bait companies like CcMoore, Rod Hutchinson are using fenugreek seeds in many of their tournament rated products. However, some suggest that its pungent odor may resemble something that is naturally available as carp diets. Fenugreek seeds have a respectable amount of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins andminerals. About 23%-25% of its body mass is protein, 60% carbohydrate and 2% saturated fat. The whole of seed is composed with great dietary fiber. It is one of the greatest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin-B6. And series carp anglers know what that means.
5. Acorus calamus
Common English: Sweet Flag
Bengali: বচ, বজ, গুড়বচ [Vacha, Baj, Vaja, Gudvacha]
Sweet Flag has an old history of being used in traditional ayurvedic treatments and perfume production. A limited use in wine industry has also been found. The grunded rhizomes of Acorus calamus are used to make traditional groundbaits in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Its essential volatile oil is high in beta-asarone which gives it the distinctive fragrance. Beta-Asarone is a neurotoxin and a base ingredient in perfume production. No notable nutritional ingredient has been found to be in Acorus calamus. Besides, this herb has no scientific evidence of having fish attracting properties.
6. Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Common English: Cinnamon
Bengali: দারুচিনি [Daruchini]
Cinnamon is one of the most used spices in game fishing around the world. Anglers use the powder and the essential oil of cinnamon in their baits. The main chemical behind the pungent odor and hot and sweet taste of this spice is Cinnamaldehyde. An average of 90% of the essential oil extracted from cinnamon barks is Cinnamaldehyde. However, the use of cinnamon on game fishing is very old and avid carp anglers deliberately advice to use it in baits and ground-baits as a attractant or a flavoring agent. In Indian subcontinent, it is a must ingredient in Catla catla and Labeo rohita fishing baits. But, it is also said that excessive use of cinnamon in baits is fatal because of some of its toxic properties.
7. Ferula assa-foetida
Common English: Asafoetida
Bengali: হিং [Hing]
Asafoetida is a widely recognised bait ingredient around the world. It is a highly recommended item both in carp and catfish angling. Asafoetida is available in the market in the form of cakes or cubes made from the roots and rhizomes of the asafoetida plant. It is a combination of three basic ingredients available in the plant itself: resin, gum and essential oil. The phytochemical properties of this spice is quite complex. Asafoetida essential oil is a widely used by European anglers. In this region, popular lal bakor and sada bakor contain a significant amount of this spice.
Asafoetida is used mainly because of its pungent and unique smell. But it has great digestive properties which pre-digest the other items mixed with it (eg: cooked rice, garlic, cheese, oil cake etc.). Thus it breaks down the ingredients into amino acids and enzymes which make the baits readily digested and irresistible to fish. Asafoetida is rich in sulfur which is the reason that it has anti-fungal characteristics. It is a widely used pickling agent and natural preservative. That means it helps the baits or groundbaits to stay good for long and enhances the accessibility to the fishes. However, as asafoetida has very strong and brutal phytochemical properties, it is always advisable to use it moderately.
8. Juniperus Communis L
Common English: Juniper Berry
Bengali : আভাল, আওবেল, চুই, আবুবেল [Abhal, Aobel, Chui, Abubel]
The essential oil of the juniper berries is considered as one of the magic ingredients by the most European anglers while targeting big carps. Many famous bait companies claim that some of their high end baits contain the essential oil of juniper berries. However, we use it as a ground-bait ingredient in this part of the world. The essential oil of juniper berries is not used in hookbaits. But according to avid European carp anglers, it is a highly effective bait attractant to be used with hookbaits. It has a distinctive smell and a bitter taste. Juniper berries are used in wine making industries as a flavoring agent. It’s volatile essential oil contains pinene, myrcene, sabinene, limonene and β-pinene. Some antioxidant properties have been traced in juniper berries. Juniper berries have fish repelling properties as well. And it is always advisable to use it in a very little quantity.
9. Anamrita Cocculus
English: Indian berry, Fishberry,
Levant nut, Cow killer
Bengali: কাকলা [Kakla]
It’s English name ‘Fishberry’ describes quite clearly what it is. The berry shaped fruits of the plant are rich in picrotoxin is a neural toxin. The literary meaning of picrotoxin is ‘a bitter poison’. In some South Asian regions this berries are used in paste and lice control for their toxic behavior. This picrotoxin make the fish stun and for this reason the extracts of Anamrita Cocculus berries is used by many tribal people to catch fish in small streams. Many anglers have advised to used it in hookbaits and ground-baits for catching big Catla catla. It has a unique smell which stimulates human senses. The smell could be appealing as well to many aquatic animals. The powdered seeds are extensively used in traditional ground-baits and hooks-baits as attractant for catching Catla.
10. Psoralea corylifolia
Bengali: বাবুচি, বাগুচি, ভুস্কি, কুষ্ঠনাশিনি [Babuchi, baguchi, Bhuski, Kushthanashini]
Psoralea is one of the most sought in ayurvedic herbal medicines in this region. It has more than 150 chemical compounds in it’s seeds, rhizomes, leaven and roots and many of them are conventionally used in treating psoriasis, leukoderma, leprosy and cancer. We don’t know how it’s seeds were introduced as fish attractant in Bangladesh and India. But some old Chinese texts have been discovered where the psoralea seeds are being advised as bait ingredient to attract fish. A variety of flavonoids, coumerins and meroterpenes have been isolated to the seeds. Some of these chemicals have given the essential oil of the seeds a distinctive fragrance. Some scientific researches indicate that it has a great effect to attract rohu and mrigal.
The roots of this tree is used for aromatherapy. The aromatic property of the roots is believed to attract fish. The roots have a little amount of essential oil which causes different stomachic disorders.
This plant is a great source of natural perfume. The rhizomes of Jatamansi have been used for thousands of years in making perfumes as well as in many herbal treatments. Jatamansi has been mentioned in many old religious texts including the Old and New Testaments. The essential oil of this plant is one of the thickest available in the nature. It is a well recognized sedative with neuro-chemical behaviours. The powder of the mildly roasted rhizomes is used the groundbaits of carp fishing in this part of the world. The common chemical components found in this plant are nardosinone, aristolen-9beta-ol, nardosinonediol, beta-sitosterol, oleanolic acid, acaciin, octacosanol, ursolie acid and kanshone A etc.
It is a plant known for its many therapeutic usage. Every part of this plant has been said to have some ayurvedic usage. However, the most common use of Asteracantha longifolia is found in the treatment of impotency. Some scientific researches indicate that this plant has properties that can aid to glucose metabolism in blood. This is the reason it is used in herbal treatments for diabetes.
We have not much clue why and how the seeds of Asteracantha longifolia have been introduced in game fishing in Indian Subcontinent. But, some suggest that fishes, particularly Indian carps are attracted because of it sedative characteristics. Some claim that fishes are lured to it because it is a sexual stimulant. Whatever the reasons are, it is seen to be used by many great anglers in this region.
14. Foeniculum vulgare
Bengali: মিষ্টি মৌরি
This is called one of the healthiest foods of the world. Fennel have hundreds both culinary and medical usage. It is one of the spices used in traditional ‘Panch Foron (পাঁচ ফোড়ন)’. It is sweet in taste and it has an invigorating aromatic fragrance. It is a rich source of many of the important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for living, growing and reproduction of many aquatic animals. These wonderful seeds contain a good amount of proteins as well which make fennel seeds an ideal and all-season bait ingredient.
However, lots of renowned anglers around the world have denoted fennel seeds as one of their main secrets. Tim Richardson, one of the most knowledgeable carp anglers of the present time has affirmed in many of his articles that it is an obvious ingredient in most of his baits. In our waters both rohu and catla have been seen to be hypersensitive to fennel. Fennel has been seen to work quite well where all other ingredients fail. Crushed, powdered or essential oil, any form is okay with fennel. However, essential oil extract has the maximum impact in the shortest time.
15. Illicium anisatum
Many of us have huge contradictions about anise (Illicium anisatum) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Though both of them are known as “Mouri (মৌরি)” in Bengali, they are different species. We have not found the appropriate Bengali of anise or fennel. But in Sanskrit these two spices have different names. Anise is known as Shatapushpa (শতপুষ্পা), on the other hand fennel is known as Madhurika (মধুরিকা) and Skandhabandhana (স্কন্ধবন্ধনা). Despite of the great similarities between anise and fennel, they are different in color, taste and species.
Just like fennel, anise seeds are also extensively used around the world to attract fish with baits. It has properties that are highly alluring to fish. For example, around 8-10% of aniseed is highly rich fatty acids and 15-18% of its body mass is protein. It is full of calcium, potassium, riboflavin, Niacin, pyrodoxine and other invaluable vitamins and minerals. Catla, rohu, mrigal and sometimes wallago attu have been noticed attracted to baits composed with a good concentration of aniseed.
16. Illicium vernum
English: Star Anise
Bengali: ভাদিয়ান [Vadian]
Unlike anise and fennel, star anise is a well recognized bait component. Interestingly, star anise is not effective in terms of carp fishing only, but many catfish anglers use this spice with equal respect as well. Practicality, we have caught some great sized wallago attu using star anise powder with other bait ingredients.
Star anise is also a great source of energy, fatty acids, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It has very distinctive fragrance that is highly attracted to fish. This great spice can be bought as whole or as essential oil. A few drops of star anise essential oil into bait would change its effect dramatically. It is a well recommended ingredient and it really works.
17. Glycyrrhiza glabra
Bengali: যষ্টিমধু [Yashtimadhu]
Not many anglers have the experience of using Liquorice into their baits. But, this overlooked herb is indeed a great bait ingredient. Many giant bait – manufacturing companies have gone through extensive experiments with liquorice and have found it a highly effective carp attractant and stimulant. This is what ‘Nutrabaits’, one of the major European bait making companies says about liquorice –
“This is one of those flavours you will either love or hate, but if you are looking for a proven carp attractor that is totally different and original and might just provide you with a vital edge, this could be for you.”
However, it is a great natural sweetener. It has great bioactive substances. Glycyrrhizin, glabridin, liquiritigenin and liquiritin are found in the highest concentration in liquorice. Glycyrrhizin is responsible for its sweet taste with is formed by glucose, sucrose and natural sugars. Liquiritigenin and glabridin are in fact phytoestrogens which or female hormone. Female fish and other animals require estrogen to keep healthy reproductive systems. And aquatic animals get it from different plants. And wherever there are female fishes, there tends to be several male fishes as well. Liquiritin is a great antioxidant and it’s a natural yellow colour. Catla has been found highly attracted to yellow coloured baits.