How to catch live bait in freshwater (Tips)
Small Hook and line
When someone ask me what is the most important aspect on how to catch live bait in freshwater I always go to hook size. Use small hooks and line to catch your live bait. This method will work for all kinds of sunfish and shiner. We prefer to use a small gold hook is size 8,6, or 4. Yes these are very small hooks and they work perfect when paired with a small piece of bread, or live worm.
Use very light line 6 or 8lb test line when fishing for your bait. To heavy of line will not allow for a proper natural sink of your bait.
Speaking of sinking. You want your bait to sink naturally just like a piece of bread or chum you throw out. Light line and small hooks achieves this and you will catch more bait.
Cast nets can also be used in catching sunfish and other small white bait like shiners and shad. When speaking in terms of shad you will only use a cast net. How to catch live bait in freshwater quickly and efficiently can be done with a cast net.
When targeting shiner or small sunfish you will want to chum up the water with bread or oatmeal. wet the oatmeal first so it will slowly sink and spread out. When you see a good number of bait fish eating your chum you will want to throw your net.
Captain Steve Crowder has a nice and easy method on how to throw a cast net.
A dip net with a long handle can be productive in the right areas and conditions. We use this method when there is heavy vegetation close to the shore.
Small bait fish will use the thick vegetation to hide from predatory fish. We also catch crayfish this way down South Florida.
Simply dip the net down till you hit bottom, then move the net out staying next to the bottom and lift up. Check out Frabill landing nets. They make a solid product.
Small bait cage
You can make or purchase small bait cages that you load up with bread or other chum that freshwater fish will eat. These cages are soaked in spots that you know bait will be at and you wait for a certain period of time before lifting and checking them.
This bait cages can catch a lot of bait in a short period of time. The concept is easy. There are opening to the paint pen that funnel bait in to eat your bait and they have a hard time getting out due to the construction of the pen.
How to store your live bait
If your on a boat then most likely your boat is outfitted with a live well that will easily keep your live bait alive. Just remember to not over crowd your bait well to much.
If fishing from land try and find a shade spot for your bucket. Keeping your water temperature from not getting to hot will help in keeping your bait alive and fresh.
If you cant do this, try and change out the water to give your bait fresh oxygen. bring a small bucket to swap out water every so often.
Bait bucket with aerator
This is a simple and cheap way to store bait when fishing on land. We recommend using a bait bucket that is insulated to keep your water cooler on hot days. Cooler water will keep the oxygen level better and your bait fish will live longer. Check out a company from Marine metal Products. They make nice all in one insulted buckets with aerators
Cooler modified to keep live bait alive
Coolers make a great live bait holder and this can be done relatively cheap. If you have an old cooler you can take this and outfit it with a pump that will recirculate the water up and out throw small holes at force creating bubbles and oxygen.
Check out Frabill bait box system. Even though it says its for saltwater you can keep freshwater bait alive as well.
Floating bait pen
If you will be fishing from one spot or from a dock you can utilize a floating bait pen. These floating live wells work well as you do not need to implement an aerator to provide the necessary oxygen.
Tips to Remember on How to catch live bait in freshwater
- Chum the water in spots you know or think bait would be.
- Use small hooks tipped with bread, dough, or small live worms.
- Use light line so not to spook your bait.
- Do not overcrowd your bucket or boat live well.
- Use a bucket that is insulated if possible to keep your water cool.
Use these tips and ticks to catch more live bait and in return catch more freshwater fish.