Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips How do I catch live bait for flounder and other large fish such as stripers and trout?
How do I catch live bait for flounder and other large fish such as stripers and trout?

“We’re going flounder fishing with live spot and bunker bait. How do I catch
and use these live baits?”

Large live bait will catch larger fish. You might not catch as many fish,
but the size and quality of the fish you catch can be good. In late summer
and early fall, using larger live baits can make all the difference between
a mediocre day and “fish in the freezer.”

“Go early!” is the trick to having the time to catch the bait and fish. Give
yourself at least two hours before a tide to find bait if you are not buying
it somewhere. Peanut bunker or small alewives are the easiest baits to
catch. They are those little fish that are flipping around the canals and
marina basins in Ocean City. Wear your pluralized sunglasses and you can see
them shining beneath the water.

If you are in the boat, one person can stand on the bow of the boat with a
cast net while the other steers down a canal, lagoon, or marina basin. Even
if you can’t see them if it is early in the morning, throw the cast net over
the bait you see flipping at the surface and there are likely more
underneath. Bunkers are relatively slow and easy to catch. You don’t have to
be an expert with the cast net. Just get it open! Sometimes you will cast
net hundreds of them. Don’t try to keep them all. Only keep two to three
dozen per 5-gallon bucket or they will die. You must have a battery operated
aerator or a live well with aeration for the bunker to stay alive. If you
don’t have this, keep about 6 or 8 fish in a 5-gallon bucket and be prepared
to change the water every ½ hour or so.

Bunkers are very soft so don’t handle them excessively. A live well net is a
good idea to get live bait out of the bucket or live well. Don’t put them
on the hook until you are ready to fish. When driving from one place to
another on the bay, keep your live bait on the hook, but place it back in
the live well or aerated bucket so it doesn’t die in transit.

“How do I hook live bait?”

Baitfish like spot, bunker, and bunker can be hooked several ways. Some
people hook them thru the eyes, behind the mouth, or through the lips. I
like to hook them under the chin and up through the hard part of their upper
lip. Sometimes I skip the “under the chin” part and go in its mouth and hook
it though the roof of its mouth and out the hard part of its upper lip.
They don’t seem to foul up this way no matter what kind of hook you use, and
they don’t fall off the hook. (I hate when I lose a $2 bait because it falls
off the hook!)

If the tide is totally slack and you are anchored, or if you are casting at
a place such as the end of the rock pile at the South Jetty with no or
little weight you can hook the live bait through the back so it can swim
naturally. This does not work well if you are bottom fishing in a lot of
current. Plus, when you pull you bait up to check it; it can die just from
the stress of pulling it sideways through the water.

“What kind of rig should I use?”
I like to use one of two different rigs. First of all, you need a larger
hook than you would use if you were fishing with minnows or shiners. An
Octopus or Kahle
styled hook in the 2/0 to 4/0 size is good. The larger the bait, the larger
the hook you should use. The first type rig is an egg sinker rig. Tie your
hook to the end of a 30-inch piece of 30 to 40 pound test monofilament or
Fluorocarbon leader. At the end of the leader tie a black barrel swivel. Tie
a piece of 30 or 40-pound test leader about 8-inches long to the barrel
swivel. Slip on an egg sinker in the 1 ½ to 3-ounce size
range. Then tie your barrel swivel attached to your long leadered hook to
the end of that line. The egg sinker will slide back and forth between the
two barrel swivels.

The second type of rig is to take this same long leadered hook and set it up
on a fish finder rig. A fish find rig is a simple plastic sleeve with a
sinker snap attached. You can’t buy one already set up, because you have to
put the fish finder on your line before you put on your leadered hook. To
use a fish finder rig, you feed your line, directly from your rod and reel,
through the plastic sleeve of the fish finder rig. Then you attach a snap
swivel to the very end of your line. Then, attach the single leadered hook
to the snap
swivel. Attach a bell or banker sinker in the 2 to 3 oz. range to the sinker
snap attached to the plastic sleeve. The advantage of the fish finder is
this: The fish can pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker
and it also eliminates line twist.

When using larger live bait such as bunker, spot or eels line twist can be a
really big problem if you try to use the traditional 3-way with sinker snap.
Also, it is best to fish with a single hook. Trying to fish a high low rig
with large live bait can make a tangled mess of your rig. Also, there’s no
need to try to dress your rig up with teasers, beads, or spinners. Make your
bait look as natural as possible. A 5 or 6 pound flounder is wary. It got
that big because it has never been caught!

“How do you catch live spot?”

Live spot is a very popular and sought-after bait in our area. Some bait
stores carry them for sale but in late summer and early fall they are quite
easy to catch if you have the time.

One way to catch spot is with little pieces of bloodworm or
Fishbites Bag O’Worms Bloodworm Alternative on little tiny fresh water size
8 hooks. At our tackle stores we make a 3-hook spot rig that is very
popular for catching bait
spot. Others use Sabiki rigs or simply put two leadered size #8 fresh water
type hooks on a top and bottom rig. You don’t need much bait, just a little
piece of worm or cut a tiny piece of the Fishbites Bloodworm and put it on
the hook. Fresh tuna or beef liver will also work in a pinch

The best places to catch live spot are in canals, lagoons,
marina basins, or back- bay creek areas such as Ayres Creek, Derrickson
Creek and Herring Creek. If you are in a boat, areas close to the marsh near
the Route 90 Bridge or Thorofare are good. Don’t butt right up to a green
marsh or you will start catching little sea bass. Spot like muddy bottom 3
to 4 feet deep. You can also chum with pieces of crushed crab, shrimp
shells, cat food, tuna scraps, etc… while fishing for the spot fish.

You need a running tide to catch the spot and you need to catch
them during the day. They quit biting after dark! Fish for bait spot on the
low incoming tide, and start fishing for the flounder, trout and stripers on
the incoming high tide. (Don’t get so involved in catching the bait that you
miss your fishing tide!)

“How else can you catch spot?”

You can catch them with an umbrella net. An umbrella net is made
from a wire frame with a square mesh netting stretched across it. The net is
lowered into the water below a dock or bulkhead. Bait the net with crushed
crab, cat food, or tuna or bunker scraps. Pull the net up quickly every five
or 10 minutes.

Use live spot the same way you use the bunkers. It is hardier
and will also live several days (or even weeks) in a “spot holder” if you
live or have your boat in on the water. The spot holder can be bought

When fishing with larger live baits, you need to give the big
flounder, stripers, or trout a chance to swallow the bait. Flounder will
actually turn the bait around and swallow it head first. “Let ‘em eat!”
before setting the hook is very important when flounder fishing with live

Good fishing….