How to Fish

Removing Ballyhoo Parasite for Better Baits

How would you like to try to eat a cheeseburger with a massive alien clinging to your tongue and filling your mouth and throat?

It doesn’t paint a very pretty picture, but this is exactly what many ballyhoo are dealing with until they are scooped up in the bait man’s net.

In the mouths of many ballyhoo you will find a parasitic isopod that clings to the ballyhoo’s tongue. With hooks for legs, this parasite lives there and continues to grow until the ballyhoo’s throat actually deforms. Some of them get so big that the deformed throat can interfere with rigging. Removing ballyhoo parasites will make your rigging easier and help the bait to swim straight when trolling.

If you buy frozen or fresh ballyhoo, some portion of your purchased bait is probably carrying a parasite. It’s not the bait man’s fault, it’s just how nature works.

To remove these parasites before rigging you need to slide a hook in between the tongue of the ballyhoo and the parasite. Then turn the hook so the barb of the hook catches the parasite and slowly work the critter out. Once you remove the parasite, the head of the ballyhoo can be streamlined down again and the bait is ready to rig.

parasitic isopod in a ballyhoo

The right bait is normal and the left bait has a parasite.

Note the swollen throat of the left ballyhoo, and if you look in the ballyhoo’s mouth you can actually see the parasite.

Here you can see the bulging throat section of the bottom bait, and its mouth is open because of the parasite.

removing ballyhoo parasites

Using the hook, you can carefully pull out that bizarre critter. It’s great when the parasite comes out whole, but often it comes out in pieces. Just take your time. Once the parasite is removed, you can rig the ballyhoo up as you normally would. Removing ballyhoo parasites will help the bait swim better than the baits that have a big throat and swollen mouth.

Capt. Scott Goodwin
Capt. Scott Goodwin started fishing in the lakes of Kentucky where he grew up. A move to Florida, however, brought him into a whole new realm of fishi...