Capturing, Using Freshest Streams Baits Possible


How would you like to fish the freshest baits possible? How about extra productive live baits that no one else is using? Does it sound too good to be true? Well, while we are at it, let’s also throw in the word free.

This all is possible if the stream angler is willing to make one small change in his fishing arsenal. Simply take one of your smaller dip nets and replace its large-hole netting with a minnow meshed net. Now, the wading angler has a two-for-one net. It does a great job of landing fish, while doubling as a live bait catcher. This dip net will allow the angler to easily catch the freshest stream baits possible. Also, it’s a good idea to add a couple size 10 wire hooks to your pocket tackle box.

These little beauties can cost an arm and a leg, if the angler can find a bait shop that sells them. At times, they cost more than 50 cents a piece. However, catching them is quite simple. Go to a shallow portion of the stream that has slack water, with large rocks. Simply slide the net under a big flat rock while tilting the stone up. Crayfish will scoot backwards into the net.

In rivers with large numbers of crayfish, walking in the shallows causes them to move and become visible. Slide the net into the crayfish’s tail. This causes him to swim up and into the net. When stream fishing and gathering live bait, always wear a pair of Polaroid sunglasses and a billed hat. These two items greatly improves the angler’s underwater visibility.

Don’t overlook scooping the net beneath an overhanging bank. Often crayfish crawl under here to get shade and protection from predatory fish. Make certain to scrape the net along the bottom.

Riffles with lots of rocks are a great place to gather fish catching live baits. Stand in the moving water and place the net downstream from a decent sized rock. Lift the rock quickly and slide the dip net forward. In areas with mild current, crayfish are found. However, don’t overlook the faster flowing waters in the riffles. This is where a super fish catching bait hangs out. Big black hellgrammites, two to three inches long, lie under moss-covered rocks. Some anglers claim the name, hellgrammite, was given to them because they look like something from down below. However, bass, walleye, catfish, panfish, etc. consider them heavenly bait. While catching these pincher baits in the riffles, minnows also wash down into the net.

When looking for the smaller crappie-sized minnows, pass your net under an overhanging bank. If minnows are seen in a shallow backwater area, walk upstream and shuffle your feet on the river bottom. After muddying the water, start walking at a fairly fast clip through the minnow-filled water. Keep the dip net ticking the bottom, while sweeping the net back and forth at a fairly fast pace. Since the minnows can’t see the angler in the dirty water, they fall prey to the net. Don’t be surprised, if a larger baitfish or two also finds its way into the net.

Chubs and shiners
To catch numbers of larger baitfish such as chubs and river shiners, tie a size 10 thin wire hook onto the end of your fishing line. The well-prepared angler will have a small container of maggots in his pocket. However, for those who want only fresh streamside live bait, go to the shore. Find a shady damp section of bank. This might be right next to the stream or in the nearby woods. Start flipping over rocks and logs. Here lies hyperactive live bait—leaf worms. They are only two or three inches long and act like they should be on Ritalin. Bait your size 10 hook with a piece of them.

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Flip the baited hook into the tail waters of a riffle and wait for the “tap tap” of a nice sized chub or shiner. Sometimes a 4- to 7-inch horny head chub will grab it. He looks like a big chub with small horns on its head. Save him for the big boys that inhabit the deeper pools.

These leaf worms can also be used to catch stream panfish. Hook a leaf worm and cast to undercut banks, logs, or the slow side of a current eddy. Some streams have some really nice rock bass, green sunfish, bluegills and even perch.

Hoppin’ good baits
The minnow dip net also comes in handy during late summer and early fall, for hoppin’ good baits. This is when fields around the streams have numbers of grasshoppers and crickets. During mid day, both of these insects are warmed up and ready to flee. When one is seen, slam the net over the hopper and pin it to the ground. Float them along the surface, or fish them on the bottom.

Live baits are at their best if kept fresh and lively. Some anglers like to only catch the amount they will be fishing for the next half hour or so. For longer streams storage, others bring along a perforated minnow bucket. Crayfish and hellgrammites can also be kept in a container filled with damp moss, grass, or leaves. Crayfish and hellgrammites can live out of the water as long as their gills are moist. Keep all the baits with gills in the shade or in the stream’s water.

Fishing Tips
When fishing pincher baits, the angler can cut down on his snags by doing a couple tricks. Take the crayfish’s pincher and snap it upward at the first knuckle. This removes the pincher and creates more scent. The fish will grab it more readily with its primary weapons gone. For catfish, cut off the crayfish tail, and fish it on the bottom in a deep pool.

Hellgrammites have hooks at the end of the body. If they can get down to the bottom, they grab onto moss, causing a snag. Often they become immovable. To remedy this, take nail clippers and snip off the tail end hooks. Some anglers will also remove one of the head pinchers. Be careful, because hellgrammite jaws are powerful.

Take your kids, or in my case grandkids, along when fishing streams. They love to catch all those critters that hide and swim in the rivers and creeks. Offer them some ice cream as a reward, and they will supply you with more bait than you will ever need. If they are like my grandkids, they will ask me to take them to area streams. Of course, once I am done fishing a deep pool, they immediately turn it into a swimming hole.

This summer, why not get back to the basics, while increasing your stream catches with the freshest baits possible?