How to catch live bait for catfish. You can catch live bait for catfish by fishing for baitfish in your Local River, pond, or creek. You can also use bait traps and throw nets to catch live bait.
Where to Find Live Bait
You can find live bait in a variety of spots in your local area.
Creeks are probably your best bet at catching yourself live bait. Creeks are generally loaded with the common baitfish, bluegill, minnows, creek chubs, bullhead catfish, and even crayfish.
Most of us have some kind of local creek we live near. I know I have lived within a mile of a creek pretty much anywhere I have lived. The beginning of spring, all the way until late fall you can find baitfish in your local creek.
Also, creeks seem to be more reliable than ponds. When it floods, the creeks all wash out and fill with new baitfish.
Ponds are a great source of bait for catfish. You can find panfish, carp, bullhead catfish, and maybe even perch.
Small ponds provide a somewhat consistent supply of baitfish, given that the pond isn’t fished out. Ponds are a bit less common than creeks, but they can provide a wide variety of live bait.
Lakes provide a huge habitat for many different kinds of fish. The population of baitfish in lakes is usually way higher than in any creek or pond. With an ever reproducing population, there is no shortage of baitfish in lakes. From carp to panfish, to shad and suckers, lakes and reservoirs are a great bet for finding you some live bait.
Bait for Catching Baitfish
For most baitfish, you can use worms. Pretty much any fish will take a bite out of a nightcrawler. You can use red worms, meal worms, nightcrawlers, and even wax worms.
Most panfish and minnow species are not picky about the type of worm that is in front of them. The cheapest option is probably red worms. I prefer red worms over nightcrawlers due to the smaller size.
When baitfishing, the mouths of the fish are generally a lot smaller than your standard gamefish. The small size of the red worm help those fish get their mouth around the hook much easier.
Another solid bait is bread. Just plain ole bread from the store. I usually use white bread because it tends to stay on the hook a lot better than wheat. I have caught many minnows and panfish on a small bread ball.
This is also a great bait for carp. If you can catch a carp small enough, they can be great bait for flathead catfish. Bread can also be extremely effective in bait traps. It is very easy to get hundreds of minnows in a single bait trap just using one slice of bread.
Other baits to use if you don’t have access to bread or worms.
Tackle for live bait fishing is nothing fancy. I usually just use my ultra light fishing rod. You do not need anything heavier than light action. The fish you will be catching for bait are usually going to be less than 10 inches long.
I use my ugly stik gx 2 ultra light. It is light weight, and quite sturdy. A small reel, such as a shimano sienna, or a pflueger presidential will do the trick. These reels are both incredibly smooth, and will have no problem handing any size baitfish.
For my line I usually just use 4lb test. I go with maxima because it seems to be a lot stronger than the other brands I have tried. You can probably get away with 6lb, but I wouldn’t go any higher than that. Although baitfish aren’t the smartest, some can still be weary if they see the line.
Hook size is dependent on the fish you are chasing. If you are minnow fishing, I would use size 12-14 hooks. These are hooks used for micro fishing, so they are pretty tiny. You need to be very careful putting baits on these hooks, as it is a bit tricky.
For most panfish I use size 10 hooks. This seems to be the best size for catching bait size fish. Anywhere from little 4 inch fish, up to 10 inch, the hook fits just right in their mouths.
The most easy and effective rig for catching live bait is a simple hook and split shot. You can add a bobber if you’d like, but it is not necessary. I use a small split shot, usually about 1/16th of an ounce to drift my bait down the creek.
I find this is the best way to keep the bait looking natural to potentially catch more fish. Even in ponds or lakes all you need is this rig. Simply increase your weight if you need to cast further. People over complicate rigs, and they shouldn’t be. Some of the most basic rigs are the most effective.
Bait traps can be very effective ways of catching baitfish. I have used them in rivers and creeks. There are a variety of different styles that you can choose from. I suggest getting the style that best fits your type of baitfish.
I had a trap that I used for minnows that had very little holes in it. There are others made for panfish, although I feel the best bet of catching panfish is with rod and line.
To use bait traps, you simply put whatever bait you want inside the trap, and close it. There are usually 2 openings on either side of the trap. These opening are usually funnel shape. This makes it very easy for fish to get in the trap, but makes it a bit more challenging for fish to get out.
I usually put bread in my traps, as it attracts a large amount of fish to feed on the small crumbs in the water. You can fill up a fish trap quite easily if you are in the right area. Most of the time you can see swarms of fish entering your trap. Once you get as much as you’d like, simply pull it up out of the water. This is a very easy and effective way of getting bait.
Throw nets are another great way of catching live bait. These can be bought at your local tackle shop, or online.
Throw nets are designed to spread out and fall on the water like a parachute. The lining of the net is weighted, so the weights fall to the bottom, while the nets trap fish. Once the weights fall to the bottom, you pull up the net to see what got tangled inside.
You can buy different throw nets depending on the species you are using them for. I have generally seen people use them for shad around here. You have the potential of throwing your net on a school of fish that can provide you with a ton of live bait.
Throw nets can be used from the shore or from a boat. A lot of boat guys will locate schools of baitfish with their fish finders, and then throw the net on top of them. From the bank it can be more of a challenge. You often have to cover water, and throw the net multiple times to get anything inside.
Try Your Fishing Spot
This is one tip that even I have neglected in the past. Try to catch bait at your fishing spot! It does not hurt to bring a small rod and throw on a worm.
Try close in to shore, or simply in the rocks in front of you. You will be surprised how much bait lives right in front of you. I decided to bring a small rod flathead fishing last summer and discovered a huge population of panfish.
I never knew they were there because I never tried. Now if I run out of live bait at that spot, I can simply catch more. This has helped me vastly for my long outings on the river.
Catching live bait can save you plenty of money from the bait store. I have been catching my own live bait my whole life. Whether I was down at my local creek catching minnows and crawdads, or catching bluegill down at my favorite pond.
I hope you all have a general idea of how to catch live bait for catfish!
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