Tips for Catching and Storing Live Bait

livewell

livewell

Warming weather along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts has king mackerel anglers spooling those high-speed reels and twisting up dozens of tooth-repelling wire rigs. Trolling lures and dead baits will fool the juvenile schoolie kings, but if you want consistent action with the smokers, slow-trolling, big, live bait is the way to go.

Notwithstanding the occasional commercial bait boat option (a pricey and limited supply), seasoned king chasers typically prefer baiting up the afternoon before a tournament (or a charter trip), rather than risk the possibility of struggling to find the right bait when it’s go time.

Seriously, who needs such stress when there are fish to be caught? Moreover, you miss that first-light-bite and you usually miss the best opportunities the day will offer.

So, you spend several hours dropping gold-hook (sabiki) rigs or throwing small spoons and jigs for the blue runners, goggle eyes, bluefish, and ladyfish that charm those giant kings. But don’t let all that effort go to waste—storing livies is just as important as catching them.

Some will survive an overnight stay in an aerated livewell, but you’ll likely find plenty floating the next morning.

Your best bet? Use a flow-through bait pen secured to a dock piling or a boat cleat. Commercial models are available at various saltwater retailers, but making your own from PVC pipes and nylon mesh isn’t too difficult.

With either option, a floating frame—think: pool noodles and a latching lid are essential. The former facilitates access, while the latter prevents herons, egrets and pelicans from helping themselves to your hard-earned bait supply.