Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips How to keep your live bait alive
How to keep your live bait alive
"I got up this morning and all my live bait was dead!"

Dead eels and brown bloodworms are not pretty sights to wake up to in the morning.
And on top of that, live bait is not cheap these days, so you need to know how
to take care of your bait as well as your catch!

Anglers are using lots of live eels lately for the stripers "How do I keep them alive?"
anglers are asking. Eels are very hardy. You can put them in an aerated bucket
or a live well, but it is not necessary. The best way to keep and
transport eels is without water. Keep them cool and damp, in a cooler. Many people
make the mistake of putting the eels directly on ice and let them sit for hours
before they go fishing. The ice melts and the eels drown.

The trick is to not put the eels directly on the ice until you are ready to go
fishing. Ice slows the eels down so they
are easy to grab and put on the hook. But if you are not fishing until later that
night, put the eels in a little bucket
or cooler tray inside the cooler and put ice or an ice pack on the bottom of the
cooler. Again, do eels in water unless
you have an aerator.

Some people put their eels in a small playmate cooler. They fill the cooler one
third or one quarter with ice, and then they put a layer of newspaper and then a
wet rag over the ice. Then they add 6 or 8 eels on top of that, and they are
good for the evening. In the fall of the year, when the weather is cool, I simply
throw my eels in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket (without water) and leave them
in the garage. In the morning they are usually all alive!

Two things will kill eels: Heat and water without oxygen. If you put eels in water,
you need an aerator or you need to
only keep them in the water for a little while. If you leave the eels in a 5-gallon
bucket on the boat with the sun
beating down on them, they will start to die. If it gets hot you can do
something as simple as place a wet rag over the
bucket. If they start to "dry out" you can dribble a little salt water over them.

While we're on the subject of eels, if you've never used eels before
there are a couple things you need to know. First,
you need to carry a rag to grab the eel when putting it in on the hook.
(Most anglers hook them through the lips.)
Second, once you have that eel on your hook, never lay your rod down on
the bottom of the boat or on the concrete by the
rock jetty. The eel will twist around and curl up around your rig and
you will have a big slimy knot. Always keep your
eel dangling in the water when you are moving from place to place in
your boat or waiting to cast from the rock jetties.

"How long will my live minnows live in this plastic bag with water?"

Long enough for you to drive to your boat and toss them in a
flow troll bucket! If you get caught in traffic, the
minnows might suffocate by then. Minnows, like eels, need
oxygen to breath in the water. Since they are smaller in size,
they breathe less oxygen and will live in a non-aerated bucket
for a couple hours while you are fishing. If you are
close to the water, you can refresh your bucket with fresh salt
water and keep your bait lively for another couple
hours. Add a couple ice cubes and keep your minnows cool and they
will live even longer. But if you leave that bucket
sitting with water over night, they will likely be mostly dead in
the morning. If you are lucky enough to be living or
staying on the bayside, you can put your minnows in a flow troll
bucket and leave it overboard at night. Your minnows
will live for several days in a flow troll bucket overboard because
fresh salt water flows in and out of the holes from
the bottom and top of the floating bucket.

"Will eels stay alive in the flow troll bucket? Can I keep
eels and minnows together?"

Yes, eels keep nicely in a flow troll bucket if it is kept
overboard. You can keep eels and minnows together but the
eels will eat a few of your minnows. If you have several
of each, you may want to purchase two flow troll buckets.

Minnows, just like eels, can be transported without water and will
live up to 24 hours if they are spread out in a
single layer. I have several customers who fish the Route 50 Bridge
who bring in their little playmate cooler with ice
on the bottom, a piece of newspaper or plastic on top of that,
and a wet rag on top of the newspaper or plastic. (You
don't want the minnows to fall directly on top of ice when it
starts to melt.) The anglers will buy a couple dozen
minnows. We put them directly on the wet towel with no water.
The angler will be able to walk up on the Bridge without
toting a heavy bucket of water!

I like to carry my minnows in a cooler tray when we fish on
the boat. The big igloo cooler has ice on the bottom for
the fish we hope to catch. The little cooler tray lined with
a wet rag or paper towel holds 3 or 4-dozen minnows
comfortably. The minnows are easy to pick up, as you don't have
to chase them around in the water. And you don't have
to remember to haul in the flow troll bucket every time you move the boat!

"Will the minnows live overnight like this?"

Most will live. You may lose a couple, but you will have more
minnows alive than if you left them in a non-aerated
bucket with water. Just make sure they are damp before you
go to bed. You may want to dribble a little water over them.
If they dry out, they will die.

"How about live spot or alewives?"

Many people catch live spot with little hooks and pieces of
bloodworms, or cast net alewives for bait for flounder,
trout, and stripers. These baits will not live without
water and must be aerated to live. The only way to keep them
alive with out an aerator to keep them in a 5-gallon bucket
and constantly change the water. And I mean constantly, like
every 10 to 15 minutes. This is a lot of work!

An inexpensive battery operated aerator for a mere 9.99 or
so plus the price of a couple size D batteries will save you
a lot of hassle. I always keep a spare aerator around in case
one quits working. (Try not to splash water on them- if
you do, open them up when you get home and let them dry out.)
Also, keep a couple spare batteries in your tackle box.

"Some aerators cost more. Are they worth it?"

If you fish a lot, they are. The better aerators are
quieter, have sealed on/off buttons so the water doesn't get in
them, and the bubbler stone is often a little better.

"How about those expensive bloodworms?"

Like minnows and eels, they need to be kept cool but not kept
directly on the ice. You don't want fresh water to touch
the bloodworm or it will turn white and die. If you are worried
about them falling on the ice, put them in a plastic
zip-lock bag or one of those plastic throwaway containers with
a sealed lid. Do not leave them out in the sun in the
plastic bag or they will cook. Keep the remainder in the
refrigerator, and turn them twice a day so they move thru the
grass. Moving the worms and the grass to a zip-lock freezer bag will give
them another day or two of life.

We in the tackle business know a lot about keeping bait
alive as we do it everyday!

Good fishing.