Anise Oil For Fishing

Anise oil for fishing feature image

If you’ve spent any time around anglers or read a fishing magazine, chances are you’ve seen or heard about someone using a very fragrant oil to coat their lures and bait. Sometimes brushed off as nothing more than silly superstitions, anglers that use a scent masker or scent attractant can sometimes catch more fish. Pure anise oil is a commonly used scent when it comes to fishing, but let’s take a closer look and see why this anise scent makes a difference and helps to catch fish.

Why Do Fish Like Anise as a Scent? 

Anise extract is an oil that smells very much like black licorice to humans, but helps attract fish and entice them to bite and hold onto an artificial lure or bait. In many cases, fish are timid or wary of larger bait and lures being tossed into their water, and the other scents on these items may spook them or cause them to ignore what you are offering.

With anise oil, you are not only covering up foreign smells from your hands and your tackle box, but also adding a scent that some fish find appealing. Pure anise oil is a great way to make timid fish more willing to bite your lure, and will help them hold onto the lure a little bit longer to ensure you get a good hookset.

Is Anise Scent A Good Fish Attractant?

Anise oil serves as a masking scent to cover human smells with something that is a bit closer to the smell of natural prey items.

In short, yes. Anise oil can be very effective for fishing, especially when dealing with timid or suspicious fish such as trout or catfish. Anise oil can be similar in scent to baitfish and other live prey which many fish feast on in the water. By having your lure or bait coated in the same scent, even the most suspicious trout that normally studies your lure will bite with vigor.

The main purpose of anise oil is to mask very unfamiliar smells. For example, your favorite trout fishing lure has probably been in your tackle box for a while, has been handled often, and probably tossed into different bodies of water. 

Over time, it will pick up these scents and odors. Fish can detect an unfamiliar smell on the lure and other similar items and may avoid it entirely for being so foreign smelling. Anise oil’s main purpose is as a masking scent to cover those human smells with something that is a bit closer to the smell of live baitfish and other natural prey items.

How is Anise Oil Made?

Anise oil smells strongly of black licorice due to the naturally occurring organic compound in the anise seed known as anethole. The only other plant to contain this form of anethole is fennel, but the smell is not nearly as concentrated in fennel as it is in anise. 

As with most other oils, anise starts as a seed. It is then roasted to bring a variety of flavors and scents to the foreground, and then it’s ground up to release those flavors and scents in the form of an oil.

This oil extract is collected and strained to remove any small parts from the seed. It is then blended with a neutral oil to help increase the yield. A few drops of this mixture itself is what you will be using to coat your lures, baits, sinkers and other items which will be entering the water.

Anise oil can also be collected in a less effective method using a neutral alcohol. Simply soak the fresh or toasted anise seeds in alcohol for a few days or longer to get a vibrant smelling and flavored liquid. While this is not effective for fishing, it can still be used for human consumption in cooking, as well as in some other essential oil purposes.

How to Fish with Anise Oil

Because anise oil isn’t a permanent attractant, it’s best to reapply it to your lures and baits every 10-20 casts as the smell will wear off.

Anise oil works best as a second layer of attractant, and should not be depended on to be the only attractant you use. For example, you can’t just toss a hook coated in anise oil and hope to get a fish to bite. You will still need to use an enticing lure or delicious-looking shrimp-shaped bait to get a reaction from fish.

A small drop of anise oil can be added to almost any type of lure or bait. While it is most easily used as a coating on smooth lures and baits, you can also use it to soak your soft plastics and rubber worms in. Place some anise oil and the bait or other similar items into a Ziploc bag or air tight container and let it sit overnight to get the full effect of the scent.

Using anise oil will not be a permanent attractant for your lures and other fishing-related stuff. In fact, it’s best to reapply anise oil to your lures and baits every 10-20 casts as the smell will wear off. If you’re fishing in fast-moving water, the oil will be washed off much faster so you will need to reapply it more often. When fishing in ponds and slow-moving waterways, you can go a fairly long time before having to apply more oil.

You won’t be limited to any one style of fishing when using anise oil. You can use it when fishing with a variety of rigs, when jig fishing, or when trolling. It will remain on your lure or bait through multiple casts and several bites before needing to be reapplied as well.

What Lures Work Best with Anise Oil?

Pure anise oil will coat almost any fishing lure and bait you may be using, including flies, streamers, rubber worms, soft plastic frogs, creature baits, feathered jigs, and more. You may need to reapply it much more often on exceptionally smooth lures such as spoons and poppers, but it can still be used – it just won’t apply as well to those very sleek types.

You can also use pure anise oil with both live or cut bait. Add the oil to the bait bucket or put a couple drops of the pungent-smelling stuff onto the cut bait before attaching it to your hook. The oil will soak in and provide a great scent and flavor that your target fish will pick up on quickly.

How to Make Your Own Pure Anise Oil

While it is normally much easier to buy a bottle of anise oil flavoring from your favorite shop or grocery store, you can also make your own at home.

  • Purchase high quality anise seeds. These can be found in the spice section of your local grocery store, especially if it has a large Asian influence. 
  • Roast the seeds on medium heat. This roasting process will help the seeds to produce the fragrant oil, which is exactly what you are going for.
  • Grind the seeds. This is normally done with a manual mortar and pestle, though some electric grinders can work as well. You want the seeds to be in a variety of mixed chunks.
  • Mix with a neutral oil. Grapeseed oil is a great choice because it has no flavor or scent. Place the cracked and oily anise seeds into the grapeseed oil and let it sit.
  • Decide on the potency. You can use your anise oil after as little as 24 hours soaking in the grapeseed oil, but for more potent smells you can let it sit for a week or longer.
  • Strain the oil. This step is optional, but will give you a clean oil mixture that you can then pour into a small bottle for easier application and long-time storage.

After that, you’re ready to use your own homemade anise oil on your next fishing trip.

Anise Extract and Vaseline

As mentioned earlier, anise oil may not be the best choice for use on spoons and other extremely smooth lures. However, if these lures are your favorites and you want to try anise oil to see if it catches more fish, you can add your anise oil to a small amount of warm Vaseline.

What Kinds of Fish Like Anise Oil?

In short, anise oil can be used to attract any fish you might be targeting. It is especially useful when fishing for extremely timid and suspicious fish such as lake trout and king salmon, but is also commonly used for bass, catfish, musky, and pike.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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