You don’t have to be an expert angler to know that using live bait is a much better option than using lures and jigs.
The wiggling action and natural movements of live bait attract hungry and curious fish, thereby increasing your chances of catching any fish anywhere.
Using fishing live baits is a fun hobby in itself.
But whether you source them yourself or prefer buying from a tackle shop instead, there’s a high chance that you will have trouble keeping live bait alive for a sufficiently long time.
This is mostly because small fish and insects like worms used as live bait are delicate creatures and require proper care and attention to thrive.
You need to ensure that your baits stay healthy and active so that they can effectively attract your prey their way.
But how to keep live bait from dying?
This is something that even expert anglers often struggle with.
In this guide, we will help you learn all the tricks of the trade for keeping fishing live baits alive until needed.
Let’s begin by understanding the different types of live bait used for both saltwater and freshwater fishing.
- 1 Live Bait Types
- 2 Keeping Live Bait Alive at Home
- 3 End Note
Live Bait Types
There are various species of fish and insects that are used by anglers as live baits.
However, the most commonly used fishing live baits include:
Some anglers also use insects like crickets and grasshoppers for luring in certain types of fish. Keeping them alive is generally easy.
All you need to do is ensure that the container in which they are stored is not airtight and allows the bait to breathe properly.
As for the other types of live fish baits, let’s take a deeper look at how to care for each lure.
Keeping Live Bait Alive at Home
How to Keep Bait Worms Alive?
Live worms sold at bait shops typically come in foam containers with breathable lids and would stay perfectly well in them until needed.
If you are digging up worms in your own backyard, take a similar approach for storing them until your next fishing trip.
Fill an old plastic jar or Styrofoam cup with some soil from your backyard, and cover the lid after placing the worms in it.
Poke some holes into the lid, or cover with a piece of cloth and tie with a rubber band if the jar doesn’t have a lid or it’s hard to make holes in it.
Be it meal worms, redworms, nightcrawlers, grubs (wax worms), or the likes; worms prefer dark surroundings and cool temperatures. Thus, you should keep the jar in the refrigerator.
And when out on the trip, make sure to keep the bait worms under shade.
How to Keep Bait Leeches Alive?
Leeches are the go-to option for anglers fishing in deep waters or trying to catch game-fish like trout, walleye, and billfish.
These fishing live baits are also good alternative to worms.
The rookie mistake some anglers make is transferring store-bought leeches into a different container.
You should let them stay in the container in which they are sold.
However, if you must transfer them (for example, if you want to carry only a few leeches) or if you are sourcing them from your own garden, consider using a large plastic tub.
Fill it with a little bit of water and keep the tub tightly covered.
If you tend to use leeches and worms as fish baits on most of your trips, we suggest buying a special storage container.
Leech and worm lodge containers are easily available at most shops for fishing equipment.
They consist of an insulated foam insert to keep the storage temperature down, and are the ideal choice for keeping your bait alive for a long time.
How to Keep Bait Shrimp Alive?
In order to prevent live bait shrimp from dying, it’s essential to understand the different factors that reduce their lifespan.
Firstly, make sure that you buy them from a trusted bait shop because many vendors do not take proper measures to ensure that the shrimp lives for a sufficiently long time period.
The temperature of water in the bait shop tank, dissolved oxygen content, and the duration for which the shrimp have been in the tank play a major role in determining how long it will stay alive when taken out.
The important thing to remember is that when buying bait shrimps, always ask the store for a bucket or two of the same water in which they have kept the shrimp so far.
This ensures longevity especially if you plan to go fishing after a few days.
Just don’t forget to change the water every day, and your live bait will stay alive and kicking until it’s time to become food for fish.
Another tip on how to keep bait shrimp from dying is to use a mesh type liner around the bucket or baitwell.
This prevents the shrimp from gathering up on the bottom of the container and suffocating themselves.
The mesh helps them stay suspended in the water column and thus, live longer.
Lastly, keep in mind that high concentration of oxygen in water can kill shrimp.
So, avoid using a high-power aeration pump if storing shrimp in an electric baitwell.
How to Keep Bait Fish Alive?
Minnows are hands down the most popular type of fishing live baits.
This family of small freshwater fish includes several species such as flatheads, creek chubs, shad, suckers, golden shiners, and so on.
But using minnows comes with a catch.
While they definitely help you reel in larger fish, minnows can be quite challenging to handle.
Here is a detailed guide on how to keep live bait fish alive at home:
Handle with Care
Being used as fishing live baits can be quite traumatic for the small sea creatures. Make sure that you put them in a water-filled container as soon as you catch them.
Staying out of water for more than a few seconds might not kill the fish, but it surely decreases their lifespan as it makes them stressed.
Also, try to use a barbless hook when fishing with live baits as it decreases the risk of injury and increases the survival rate.
Maintain the Water Temperature
It’s a well-known fact that water temperature affects the activity levels of marine creatures.
Warm water makes small fish more active – but contrary to what you might think at first, this is not a good sign.
This is because the more active bait fish are, the more oxygen they will consume. This becomes a problem if you don’t have an aeration pump.
You can invest in a quality bait tank that automatically maintains the optimum water temperature for the fish.
But if you are looking for cost-effective solutions for keeping bait fish alive, properly covering the container will do just fine.
It provides insulation and keeps the water temperature at a fairly constant value.
However, keep in mind that you will need to change the water more frequently to compensate for the decrease in the level of dissolved oxygen.
Maintain the Oxygen Concentration
This should be a no-brainer.
Your bait fish need oxygen to live.
So, you need to take proper measures to ensure that there is an ample amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
There are two methods to maintain the oxygen concentration in an ordinary baitwell.
- Supply fresh water – Change the water for your live bait once every few hours. You can use seawater, fresh water from a lake, or in most cases, even tap water. This is a cheap method for keeping live bait alive, but the main drawback is that if it slips your mind to transfer the fish to freshwater after some time, it will render your fishing efforts useless as you are likely to find half the bait dead already.
- Use an oxygen pump – This will require you to spend some extra money, but it is a much safer option for keeping your bait alive. An oxygen pump forces a stream of air into the given container such that it dissolves more oxygen in the water. This makes it easier for fish to breathe, and hence, live longer.
Keep the Container Clean
The growth of algae can be detrimental to the health of your live fish bait.
Make sure that the container is clean and free of other impurities such as oil and lubricants.
Wash your hands before reaching for the bait to avoid contaminating the water.
Moreover, if you notice any dead fish, immediately remove them from the container.
Dead bait release ammonia which, in turn, can cause the remaining bait to die as well.
Learning how to prevent live bait from dying is essential for anyone and everyone interested in using them to lure fish.
After all, what’s the point in using fishing live baits if they die before the big trip?
Follow the tips discussed above and rest assured that your bait will help you make the most of your fishing experience.