Why Do Fish Like Anise? The Time-Tested Fish Scent

September 6, 2020

Why Do Fish Like Anise? The Time-Tested Fish Scent

If you’ve been fishing enough times, you’ve probably seen someone coat their lures in a strange oil that smells like black licorice. At first, you might think they’re being superstitious, but after seeing them catch fish you’ve probably been convinced to use it yourself. So what is the strange oil? 

It’s called anise, and it’s an essential oil made from pressing anise seeds. Not only is it used for black licorice, but anise oil is also used in many different types of dishes from around the world. Star anise is a common spice in many Asian cuisines. It adds a nice baking spice note to hearty meat dishes. 

Why do fish like anise? It’s unclear why fish like anise, but it’s most likely because the scent is similar to other scents that their natural prey has. It’s also not necessarily that fish like anise, but rather that they don’t like foreign smells. Humans may impart these weird smells onto their lure before fishing. Most fish have a strong sense of smell, but covering your lure in anise oil wipes out any foreign smells that might scare off tentative fish. 

In this article, we’ll go into more detail on why fish like anise, as well as how to use it effectively while fishing. We’ll also go into where you can get anise oil, as well as our favorite brand to use. Let’s get started!

Is Anise Oil Good for Fishing?

The short answer is yes, anise oil is very good for fishing. As we mentioned above, anise oil smells similar to common fish prey – such as smaller fish or mullet that larger fish (like sturgeon) like to eat. This means that when a fish is trying to decide whether to bite your lure, having the extra reassurance that it smells right might be enough to convince them to bite. 

It’s also a matter of not smelling like something threatening. This could be smells that are strange to the fish such as a type of soap you last used to wash your hands. You may have applied cologne earlier in the day. 

Even though you might not be able to smell these things, wary fish will most likely pick up on it if a masking scent isn’t used. This is where anise oil comes in. Since anise has such a strong scent, it covers up anything weird the fish would normally be able to pick up on.

We recommend using anise oil whenever you use an artificial lure or arent using live bait. Anise oil works especially well for king salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, and many other types of common fish.

Fish Like How it Tastes

Anise stars spice

Another big reason why anise oil is effective in helping you catch more fish is that it convinces the fish to hold onto the lure longer after biting. When a fish bites an artificial lure, sometimes it notices that things aren’t the way they should be. The lure is hard and cold, and often times when it’s in their mouth it doesn’t taste right. 

Anise oil can help with that last problem. Lures covered with anise can convince the fish that the lure is real for just long enough for you to set the hook. Even a few more seconds of gripping the lure in its mouth can be the difference between catching the fish and it getting away.

How is Anise Oil Made?

Anise oil is made the same way many other essential oils are made. The flavoring comes from anise, which is a type of seed. The seed is usually toasted to bring out the most flavor, then ground up and heated in oil. The ground-up seed imparts that flavor to the neutral-tasting oil and then is removed by straining the oil. 

Anise extract can also be made by simply soaking the anise seeds in neutral alcohol as well. The seeds will impart their flavor into the alcohol after soaking. The longer you let the seeds soak, the stronger the flavor in the alcohol. While this method may be good for producing anise extract for cooking, we do not recommend it for fishing. Alcohol is a foreign smell to fish and will scare them off.

The actual flavor of anise comes from the chemical anethole, which has the signature black licorice flavor and smell. Anise has been used for centuries in countries all over the world, from Europe to Asia.

How to Fish with Anise Oil

Now that you know what anise is and how it is made, let’s go over how you should use it for fishing. Anise oil is best used as an additional attractant to a lure or bait, not the only attractant. 

We recommend lightly coating your lures in anise before you cast them out into the water, or storing them in a plastic bag that has anise oil in it. You can also soak your bait in anise overnight to impart the flavor more effectively. 

Since your lures will be washed while moving through the water, it’s a good idea to re-apply anise while you fish. We like to lightly coat our lures every hour or so of fishing to make sure they stay covered in anise. You don’t need to add a ton for it to be effective! A few drops of the oil is enough to do the trick.

Anise oil works great for all types of fishing. It’s especially effective for casting, trolling with meat rigs, and jigging. If you’re casting, we recommend re-applying the anise ever 50 or so casts. If you’re retrieving your lures rapidly or fishing in a fast-moving current, you may need to re-apply the anise scent more often. 

What Lures Work Best with Anise Oil?

Raw fresh bream with lemon, star anise, chilies and scallions

Almost all lures will work well with anise oil, however, there are some particular types that work especially well. Any type of lure that has a non-smooth surface will work great. This is because a non-smooth surface allows the oil to stay applied to the lure more effectively. 

Typical lures that work great with anise are bucktails, almost all types of flies, feathered jigs, streamers, and more. Lures that don’t work particularly well with anise oil are smooth spoons, spinners without a streamer, Rapalas, poppers, and other lures without a good surface for the oil to adhere to.

Anise oil also makes a great compliment to cut or live bait, such as herring or minnows. Simply add some of the oil to your bait bucket and coat the baitfish in it. The anise scent will mix with the natural fish scent well and add to the enticing nature of the bait.

You should also make sure that if you’re using live bait to not kill the bait while applying the anise. Making sure your live bait will swim frantically is much more important than having it smell like anise.

How to Make Your Own Anise Oil

We typically buy our anise scents, but if you want to save some money and make a lot of anise oil at once you can make it at home. Here are the steps to make your own anise oil.

  1. Begin by purchasing anise seed. You can usually find it at your local grocery store in the spice section. You’ll need at least a cup.
  2. Pour the anise seed into a pan and heat on medium. This is to activate the scent and bring out more of the flavor. 
  3. After heating for several minutes or until you can start to smell the anise more, remove from the heat and pour into a mortar and pestle.
  4. Grind the anise seed up into fine chunks, and add to one gallon of neutral-flavored oil. We like to use grapeseed oil.
  5. Now you just have to let it sit for at least 24 hours. We recommend leaving it for longer – up to a week. 
  6. Finally, strain the seed chunks out of the oil with a cheesecloth or a strainer. This step isn’t necessary but will make your oil cleaner.
  7. You’re ready to go fishing!

Anise Oil and Vaseline

Another really effective way of applying anise to your lures is to first add it to vaseline. Vaseline will have a much better time sticking to smooth lures. You can buy vaseline at most drug stores. 

Once you’ve bought vaseline, warm it up slightly over the stove to get it into liquid form. Then add several drops of anise extract and let it cool. The vaseline should now smell strongly of anise. 

To apply the anise vaseline to your lures, simply dip the hooks of your lures into the vaseline. It will stick nicely and last longer on smooth lures.

What Kinds of Fish Like Anise Oil?

Anise oil

The short answer is all fish like anise oil! In our many combined years of fishing, we have yet to find a fish that was deterred because we used anise oil. 

As we mentioned above, it’s not that fish necessarily love anise oil, it’s that the scent covers up any other scents that the fish might not like. Some common species we always use anise with are salmon, trout, pike, catfish, musky, bass, and many more.

Parting Thoughts

Now that you know why fish like anise oil as well as how to fish with anise oil, what are you waiting for? Be sure to add a good anise-flavored scent to your tackle box, and bust it out next time you aren’t catching fish. It can only make your lure more attractive to the fish. Got your own recipe for anise oil or a specific brand you like to use? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!

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