Dawn is the owner of Seattle Hill Soap Company and formulates natural and safe soaps and skin care items that are enhanced by herbs, botanicals or clays. You can find Seattle Hill Soap Company at www.seattlehillsoaps.com.
Star anise (Illicium verum) is a wonderfully diverse spice that is frequently used to flavor teas, stews and Chinese cuisine and is known for its licorice taste and fragrance. Star anise gets its name from the Latin word illicere, which means to attract, and, as it turns out, it is a powerful attractant not only to humans but also to fish.
When I was first introduced to this concept, I thought it might be an old wives tale so I set out to discover whether it was fact or fiction. I began with internet research then spoke with people who fish and have actually used it. To my surprise, star anise is a star flavor with many fish and very popular with bass, salmon, trout and catfish, to name a few.
Star anise fishing set from Seattle Hills Soaps.
Photo by Dawn Robnett
What I found amazing in my research is that fish can actually smell humans from the oils we leave behind on the fishing tackle and bait. The best way to mask this scent is to use an anise scented soap, which is used prior to handling any tackle or bait. Often times hands are wetted, soaped and rinsed right in the lake/ocean water. Since “real” soap (soap made with lye) is phosphate-free, it is considered to be environmentally-friendly and fine to use in this manner.
If you search the internet, you’ll find hundreds of bait recipes, all of which require a pure star anise essential oil. The most popular I’ve found is to mix 2 ounces cod liver oil and 10 to 15 drops star anise oil in a small spray bottle. This mixture is then used to spray lures, bait, hooks, weights, bobbers, flies, etc. It’s also used to spice buckets of chum.
At Seattle Hills Soaps, we have a fishing set that includes anise soap and 0.5 fluid ounces pure anise essential oil in a wide mouth jar so it’s easy to dip a fly or a brush into it.