The art of of fishing smaller fish for bait is no big secret but you need to learn what bait fish work best and how to use them for different game fish. Small fish are probably the most popular and widely used type of live bait world wide used for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Freshwater Anglers use small fish to catch small 6 inch freshwater pan fish such as bluegills or yellow perch on up to large sturgeon. Saltwater anglers use bait fish to catch marlin, sailfish and Spanish mackerel just to name a few. Most all saltwater predator game fish can be caught using a combination of some type of small fish. Most freshwater fisherman use smaller fish as a live bait, but these baits can be cut into pieces called cut bait also. This is a very good method of fishing for multiple sub species of the catfish. Many saltwater fisherman use live bait fish also but using bait fish as cut bait is very common and preferred by many saltwater anglers.
Many of the bigger predator game fish with feed mainly on smaller game fish for example bluegills or yellow perch, or even small fish in their own species. As the game fish grow to trophy size, their food diet reaches nearly 100 percent smaller game fish. The reason we mention this is because you can use thus information to your advantage. You need to make your bait selection based on the size of game fish you want to catch. Most game fish will go after baits that are close to the size of bait fish they normally eat in their natural food chain. One thing we need to mention is to check with your local state or providence department of natural resources to see if it legal to use game fish such as bluegills, sunfish or yellow perch as live bait. In some states and provinces it is not legal. Another factor when selecting your bait is the liveliness and hardiness. You are probably wondering why this makes a difference but this is a very important factor because most game fish, especially predator game fish will not strike dead baits.
Typically the following small fish are very hardy as live bait and will stay alive for long periods of time. they include fathead minnows, rosy reds, American eels, and madtoms. The following bait fish are know to be hardy and with a small about of care will last long periods of time too. They include daces, creek chubs, redtail chubs, stonerollers, white suckers, goldfish, sculpin, bluntnose minnows, and bluegill. all of the listed hardy bait fish need to be kept cool and have fresh air aerated to the bait container. The following list is of delicate bait fish and probably a bad choice for live bait unless you catch them and intermediately use them as bait, or have a very good bait tank on your boat that circulates water from the water source you are fishing into your bait tank. They include the common shinner, golden shinner, red shinner, yellow perch, killfish, emerald shinner, spottail shinner, ciscos,shad, and smelt.
Hooking your bait fish the right way is often overlooked and probably the main reason many people have lost fish they thought they had hooked. If you are targeting smaller game fish such as crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and using small fish there are literally dozens of different hooking methods. As a rule of thumb, as your baits get larger your rigging options get smaller. Also the body size of your baitcan give you different hooking options. For example a long thin body bait fish such as a sucker give you more hooking options then say a deep body bait fish such as a blue gill. Don’t overlook how you hook your bait it is a very important part of using bait fish to catch game fish correctly.
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