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Live Bait Fishing Tips - Keeping Your Baits Alive
By Daniel Burgess

bait fishingObviously you can’t live bait if you can’t keep it alive, and this can often be quite a task. Keeping your baits happy, healthy and kicking can be approached in many ways, so I have put down a few key tips to remember; and some good alternatives to fully plumbed live bait tanks.

I will start with problems that affect even perfectly plumbed tanks and go from there.


If you have a fully plumbed, top of the line bait tank, then you are well ahead of the game but will still have fish dying. If the tank becomes overcrowded fish will start to die.

Remember the bigger the baits the less will survive in your tank. Baits so big they can’t freely swim around the tank will have a high mortality rate. Once fish have died make sure to remove them from the tank as it will affect the remaining survivors.

When you are catching bait make sure to handle them as little as possible. If possible catch bait with long shank hooks then hold the shank of the hook and shake the bait off and straight into the tank. That way you never touch the fish.


If you don’t have an inbuilt tank, or room for this, the next best thing is to use an esky. In a good sized tinnie I have even plumbed a good quality esky with great results, the next best thing to an esky is the good old fashioned ‘kill box’ the ones commercial fishos use for storing their catch.

Eskies work very well as bait tanks because one major problem for keeping fish alive is change in water temperature. Not only are fish very sensitive to temperature change but when water warms up it loses its dissolved oxygen killing the fish.

A 50 litre tank of water in summer warms up very quickly, this is very important to remember when you don’t have any circulation in your tank. The temperature problem also relates to colour, try and use white tanks so they don’t attract more heat.


Without having the tank plumbed you will have to use a bucket to constantly refresh the water in the tank, its hard work but often worth it. You can also purchase small bait pumps that will help but I’ve found that you still need to use the bucket but just not as often.

When you pour water into your tank don’t try to be gentle, this is a mistake, it is best to do it from a good height and create a lot of foam, this is oxygen mixing with the water and benefits your baits.


Another key point is the shape of the tank. Ideally a high surface area is great which again is why most eskies work well and so do ‘kill boxes’.

The higher the surface area the more oxygen can dissolve into the water, this is also why little kiddy wading pools are perfect when fishing from the shore.


One last useful tip for boat fishos is to have a laundry basket that is deep and narrow in shape. Put some weight in the bottom of the basket and flotation around the top of the basket.

When you are at anchor simply put this in the water and tie it of to the side of the boat. Transfer your livebaits from your tank into the basket while fishing at anchor and they will stay healthier than in any livebait tank. Always have a small net for transferring the baits so as not to damage your baits.

Remember the better you handle your livebaits the better baits they’re going to be.

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