Guide to Keep Live Bait Alive Longer

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.

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To keep live bait alive, use a well-aerated bait container with a lid, maintain proper water temperature, avoid overcrowding, and change the water regularly to remove waste. For some bait types, consider adding a water conditioner or non-iodized salt to reduce stress, and keep the container in a shaded area to minimize temperature fluctuations.

Hard lures and artificial bait can be effective and are valuable pieces of tackle in any angler’s tackle box, but there’s nothing quite like fishing with live bait. Fishing with live bait is a unique experience and a surefire way of reeling in many fish! This is a beginner’s live bait guide to help you improve your fishing success.

There are many great reasons to fish with live bait over lures. Fishing with live bait is easier as you don’t need to worry about presenting it as though it were the real thing… it is real!

When you fish with live bait, you give your prospective catch exactly what they are looking for: real food. The smell, the enzymes released, movement, color, and texture are what fish are instinctively attracted to.

You are giving them what they need.

With live bait, there is a unique chance to tap into the natural rhythm beneath the water’s surface.

Although it can be challenging to keep alive, particularly for extended fishing sessions. If you follow the tips in this article, you can keep your live bait alive and healthy for longer.

Why Use Live Bait

While lures have definite advantages, they are fun to use and avoid more unwanted catches than live bait. There are times when live bait is the obvious choice.

Live bait is by far the most effective method of fooling most fish for the simple reason that live bait is exactly what the fish want. They are also free – get yourself an easy-to-use cast net, and you can get as much bait as possible.

Many fish feed throughout the night, meaning they do not rely on their vision. Their scent becomes their dominant sense. During these times, lures are not very useful, as the fish cannot see them visually. But with a live baited hook in the water at night, the scent and pheromones the bait releases will attract your catch.

Another situation where live bait is the definite winner is in over-fished areas. In these waters, fish have become accustomed to onslaughts of artificial lures, so seeing another lure is not appetizing. In these waters, live bait is by far the best option.

When fishing with live bait you can cast out and let the scents of the bait attract fish. Whereas if you are fishing with a lure, you need to do a lot of maneuvering to get the fish’s attention. So live bait is the best option where you do not want to move the lure constantly.

How to Keep Live Bait Alive Longer

Live bait is the best fishing bait you could use, but while it will generally yield a bigger catch and result in a more enjoyable fishing trip, there’s a little more maintenance involved, as you will need to keep the bait fresh until the time it is threaded onto the hook.

When you take live bait out fishing, you must keep it alive. A few factors will determine the lifespan of your live bait, including the water temperature, aeration, water quality, and sufficient food.


Keeping Crawfish in clean water is the most important step in keeping Crawfish alive. Tap water is not good enough! The best water to use is water from a creek or a pond. Distilled water is another option if this isn’t available to you.

Make sure there are air holes in the bucket you are storing them in!

They are not fussy and can be fed veggies, meat, and fish. But do not feed them greasy food. Feed them once a week and change out the water the day after you feed them to keep their water clean.

If they molt in the bucket, then remove their old shells. Also, remove any dead crawfish as quickly as possible so they don’t pollute the water.

crawfish as bait

Blood Worms

A worm box is the best way to keep blood worms alive and well. You only need a rubber tub to fill with worm bedding or potting soil. The soil should be moist but not too wet.

You will want to keep the box in a shady, cool place.

Blood worms can be fed a diet of eggshells, coffee grounds or worm food. They don’t need a lot, just a small amount every week. Once the food has been eaten, you can add more.

Keeping Blood Worms Alive for Fishing


Keeping minnows alive is essentially like keeping your goldfish alive. They need clean water, oxygen, and food. If you plan to raise minnows long term, you should invest in a proper fish tank setup, including a quality tank, aerator, filter, and a place of shelter like some coral or an object with enclosed spaces.

The tank is best kept with gravel and rocks in the tank bed. Giving the fish more places to hide keeps them happier and less stressed.

Minnows should be fed about twice a day with fish flakes. If you notice excess fish food floating to the bottom of the tank, this is an indication that you are overfeeding them.

If you are looking for a dedicated live bait tank, please read our buying guide.

minnow bait fish

Ideal Temperature Range

Different species used as live bait will be more comfortable and survive longer in different temperatures. Usually, if the temperature is a factor that negatively affects your bait, the majority of the time, it’s due to overheating. So, as a rule of thumb, for most species, you want to try and keep them cool.

Minnows, for example, do best at temperatures around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Likewise, blood worms love cooler temperatures. Their normal habitat is deep beneath the soil, in cool and insulated environments. So best to keep them in an ice cooler or refrigerator. Worms will start going bad at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is a table of popular live bait species and the ideal temperature range to keep them alive:

Bait SpeciesIdeal Temperature Range (Fahrenheit)
Sand fleas60-75
Red worms55-75
Fiddler Crabs70-80

You Need Aeration

They will die if you don’t allow enough air into your live bait container. As simple as that. Extremely stressful environments can also contribute to the early deaths of your live bait. So please do everything you can to ensure they have enough air and ample space.

Take care of your live bait, and they will take care of you.

This is a table of common live bait species and whether you need to aerate the water to keep them alive longer.

Bait SpeciesAeration Needed
Sand fleasYes
Red wormsNo
Fiddler CrabsYes

Water Quality and Clarity

Water quality is of utmost importance when keeping live bait healthy and alive. Oxygen content, ammonia, and pH levels all contribute to poor water quality.

All aquatic creatures require dissolved oxygen in the water to breathe. Poor water quality often means lower oxygen levels, which can cause the bait to suffocate and die.

As bait fish and other aquatic animals excrete waste, the levels of ammonia and nitrites in the water can increase. High levels of these substances are toxic and can kill bait.

The pH of the water can affect the health of live bait. If the water is too acidic or alkaline, it can cause stress or death.

To maintain good water quality, regular cleaning and water changes are necessary. Here are a few steps on how to do this:

Remove about one-third of the water in the tank daily and replace it with fresh, dechlorinated water. This helps dilute the ammonia, nitrites, and other pollutants.

Overcrowding can quickly lead to poor water quality. Make sure you have a tank sized correctly for the amount of bait you have.

Regularly clean the tank to remove uneaten food, waste, and dead bait. Use a siphon to vacuum the bottom of the tank.

Quality of Life

You must keep it alive no matter what live bait you choose. You must be sure that you are providing your bait with enough aeration and suitable temperature, keeping a general eye on them, and ensuring they are healthy overall.

The more alive and healthy your bait is, the more movement it will exhibit when on your hook. This will attract more fish and larger fish. It is in everyone’s best interests to keep your live bait healthy.