Throughout my career fishing, I have taken a tremendous amount of pride in catching my own bait. It is not only cost effective, but it can also lead to better results when fishing. Catching your own live bait can be your first glimpse of success for that long day of fishing that awaits.
1. Minnow Trap
The Minnow Trap is one of the easiest and most traditional ways to catch bait. Over the course of the trap’s lifetime, any fisherman will see a great return on their investment. Given that it is called a “Minnow” trap, you will probably only catch smaller bait fish since the opening in the trap is not that wide.
When using the trap, it is important to add food that will attract the bait fish, such as bread, fish food or even a dead fish. I usually try to find an old loaf of bread around the house that can be used for bait. Once filled with food, I usually try to leave the trap in the water for 2-3 days. Try not to consistently check the trap during this timeframe so you won’t cause a disturbance to the potential bait nearby.
Throughout my time using the Minnow Trap, I have caught the following: a common Shiner, Emerald Shiner, Fathead Minnow, Gulf Killifish, Striped Killifish, Eels, Dogfish, Shrimp, baby Weakfish, and even baby Striped Bass. Dependent on the catch, several of these “baitfish” were released back into the water. By sharing this large list, my main point is that you can catch a variety of small fish with this method. This method is a great way to supply your bait bucket when fishing in canals, rivers, lakes and bays. Read our other article about the best minnow traps.
2. Cast Net
The Cast Net is so unique compared to other bait catching methods since it doesn’t limit one’s catch to just baitfish. The net is easy to transport, fast to clean and simple to learn. When initially learning, it is always recommended to start with a smaller sized net. As the basic technique is learned, it is more seamless to upgrade to a larger size.
I would recommend starting with a 4-6 foot net (measured by radius). I currently use a 10 foot net. The positive of using a larger net is being able to cover a wide range of water area on a throw. However, the negative of using a larger net is that the larger the net, the higher probability it will tangle. I love this method when I am trying to catch bait because when I see a giant school of peanut bunker in the canal or bay, I know that I am able to catch plenty of them with the use of the Cast Net.
While I have been personally using a Cast Net for many years, it did take some time to learn at first. But when I saw the success and thrill associated with a simple cast, I became eager to learn real quick. The best way that I was able to learn was consistently practicing and even recording myself throwing the net. I now own several nets at different sizes and make sure I always have an emergency Cast Net stored on my boat. You never know when you may need a cast net on the open water! I have had some incredible catches with my Cast Net: bunker, eels, bluefish, baby striped bass, crabs (accidentally), and other types of baitfish that normally travel in schools.
3. Seine Net
Another common net that was widely used back in early society was the Seine Net. Today, we commonly see the use of this type of net in commercial fishing, known as a Drum net seiner. Still, this tactic is very reliable for the common fisherman and works great by the shore. With the help of at least two people, the net is deployed in the water vertically, with poles on the end, weights on the bottom and floats on the top. The goal is to walk along the shore while fishing for what is between the two poles holding the net on each end.
The Seine Net comes in many different shapes and sizes which all depends on what it is being used for. More often than not, the goal of the net is to encircle a school of fish without a way for them to exit.
I have only used a Seine Net to catch small schools of shiners for bait when I am by the beach. It does require both users to actively go into the water to deploy the net. The problem with these nets is more on the ethical side. Too many commercial fishermen use these nets in the deep sea without the appropriate permission from authorities, causing fish stocks to be negatively impacted. Endangered species become overfished and non-target species are removed from their natural habitat.