Live Bait: Fishing with natural food worth effort

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Whether it’s worms and minnows in fresh water or shrimp and pin fish out on the salt, the chance to let live bait do the work can be the key to filling limits and freezers, but keeping live bait alive can sometimes be a challenge. That’s where knowledge from the live bait providers themselves can help.
To keep baitfish alive, make sure their water is as cool as possible and is circulated regularly. A boat’s live well is ideal for this, but if that’s not available, artificial bubblers can keep oxygen in the solution, as long as the water doesn’t get too hot.
“Hot water won’t hold oxygen very well, so on hot days the water needs to be changed out frequently,” Kay Moore, with Half Hitch Tackle in Destin, Fla., said.
Fresh water bait buckets can also be helped out by dumping a handful of ice in from time to time, but beware of doing this with salt water bait.
“Ice thrown into a salt water tank will mess up the saline levels and kill the fish,” Moore said, “but you can use sealed ice packs in those cases and that helps a lot.”
In the case of wells of baitfish for both salt and fresh water application, take extra care about dipping sunscreen-coated hands into the water. A dose of sunscreen will dispatch a day’s worth of live minnows in a hurry. Minnow dippers are handy, but for those who fish live bait regularly, a good quality aquarium dip net can be a real time saver for netting speedy bait when the fishing is fast.
For bait of the worm and cricket varieties, keeping them housed somewhere that’s as cool as possible and out of the direct sunlight should be perfect. They can also be stored overnight in your kitchen refrigerator.
“It’s more natural for the fish to react to live bait,” John McDonald, of Harbor Docks Bait & Tackle, in Destin, Fla., said. “It’s just like their natural food, except there’s a hook in ours.”