How to Hook an Eel for Bait

How to Hook an Eel for Bait

As a popular live bait for Striped Bass, the Eel is extremely effective and quick to learn how to hook for use as bait. They also work pretty well when fishing for Cobra. Eels are considered one of the best live baits because of their ability to stay on the hook, they stay alive for a long time and they provide a lively swimming action when deployed in the water. It is amazing how long Eels can remain alive without being in the water. It is typical to find live Eels stored in baskets at fish markets since they do not need water. For your next trip fishing either in salt water or fresh water locations, you will certainly want to add live Eels to your repertoire.

How to Catch an Eel for Bait?

We mentioned the great benefits of having an Eel for use as bait. The easiest option to acquire Eels as bait is to purchase at a local fishing bait & tackle store. The next best option, and my favorite option, is to catch on your own with the use of live minnow traps.

Using a minnow trap to catch Eels requires some degree of luck. Minnows traps are known for their success catching live baitfish such a shiner, a killifish or other small minnows. To lure Eels to your minnow trap, we recommend using cat food or tunafish as the best bait to catch Eels. Both of these foods create a strong small that lures Eels to the trap. Be sure to leave your minnow trap in the water overnight for 3-5 days. Always worth checking on the trap periodically to remove Eels that have been successfully caught.

Eels swim along docks, beaches, and rocks, which are all ideal spots to place your minnow trap, or in this case, an Eel trap. If you have the desire to spend a little extra money to purchase your own Eel trap, we recommend the purchase of the best Eel trap on Amazon (pictured below). The goal is to catch the Eel coming in and provide no opportunity for the Eel to exit. Gees Eel Pot is designed by experts, who have been successful in creating and manufacturing traps for over 100 years.

As the trap begins to attract and catch Eels, you will want to remove them to avoid them from escaping. I typically remove the Eels and place them into a live well, which continues to keep the Eels alive and allows them to swim in fresh flowing water. This step is critical in keeping them fresh for use as bait so they remain alive when you are ready to go fishing. Most live wells aren’t very large but the more space for the Eels, the better. Try not to overload the live well with too many Eels.

What is the Best Bait for Catching Eels?

Supplying your trap with the appropriate bait can make all of the difference. Eels love stinky bait such as fish chunks, nightcrawlers, tunafish, cat food, and even hot dogs or sausage! All have been known methods for luring Eels successfully. The best time to catch Eels, via the use of traps, are during the Summer months of June, July and August as well as the beginning of Fall.

How to Hook an Eel?

Given the different sizes and lengths of Eels, they can be confusing to hook. To ease your experience hooking the Eel, we recommend the use of a glove or a towel to assist in holding the fish. The Eel can be slimy and could have enough strength to move out of our normal hand grip.

The best method for successfully hooking an Eel is to loop the hook through the bottom of its jaw and come out through either the left or right eye. We prefer this way most because it forces the Eel to swim down and away from the surface of the water when used as bait on a hook. Striped Bass, Cobia, as well as other fish that could be lured by a live Eel, respond more favorably to the bait when it is swimming down. The downward swimming motion signals to the predatory fish that the bait is in a panic mode which makes it more vulnerable to be eaten.

To avoid a tangle or knot, place your hooked Eel into the water and allow the Eel to swim. Eels can stay fresh in the water for a long period of time which makes them an ideal bait for the predatory fish that we already mentioned above. Also, be sure to use a large enough hook to accommodate the size of the Eel as well as the potential catch of your desired fish. Usually, the large circle Striped Bass hooks work really well. I prefer the use of circle hooks because they are very effective when setting the hook in the mouth of a fish and they are easy to remove.

Maintaining the freshness of your live Eels will assure their effectiveness when they are on your hook. Try to routinely change the water in which they are being transported or stored. Using a live well on the boat or adding a bubbler to a bucket or cooler are great ways to provide Eels with plenty of oxygen while you are fishing. The best Eel size for catching large Striped Bass (Stripers) are between 10-18 inches. Remember that the bigger Eel, the bigger potential size of your catch. Bigger Eels are inevitably more powerful and will have a tendency to swim down to the rocks while they are in the water. Be sure monitor your bait and maintain tension on your line to avoid having any problems of having your line get stuck.

What is the Best Time for Live Eel Striper Fishing?

Live Eels are extremely effective for Stripers when fishing at night. Usually most fishing charter boats will go fishing between the 10pm-3am timeframe. Under these conditions, it is best to let the Striper make one hard run with the Eel before attempting to set the hook. Stripers are unique because of their large mouth size. They can open their mouth to fit the entire Eel in order to eat them. Waiting for the best moment to hook the fish is essential to avoid losing both your catch and potentially, your Eel.


Fishing with Live Eels can be an incredibly fun and memorable experience. The first time fishing with them is always very exciting. Proper preparation and knowledge can yield great results when using these fish as bait. Live Eels are my favorite bait for catching monster Stripers in the waters around Long Island, New York. I expect them to be equally as effective in other waters that are patrolled by Stripers. Don’t forget to kiss your Eel for good luck!

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