How To Keep Bait Alive

The best baits for fishermen are ones that entice fish into biting. This typically means using or mimicking natural food sources. While today there are numerous options to use regarding artificial bait, live bait is still a better option. Artificial baits only copy what live baits offer such as the movements, smells, and colors. Some of the most common live baits used are worms, leeches and shrimp. A drawback to using live baits involves keeping them alive. The use of aerators and livewells helps make this an easy task. 

Aeration Systems

To keep bait alive and healthy, it needs to be able to breath. Aerator systems provide the oxygen live bait needs for both respiration and to be able to break down extra nutrients produced by aerobic bacteria. The best aeration systems provide a consistent water flow and the right amount of air bubbles.

Some types of live bait are sensitive to the water flow provided by aeration systems. As the goal of the system is to copy the water flow a particular bait is accustomed to, it is important to choose a system that is consistent with the natural habitat of the bait. For instance, some baits such as greenbacks and shad require a gentle aeration system the will allow them to swim with ease with the current provided.

The air bubbles provided by an aeration system also play important part to keeping bait alive and healthy. Bubbles need to be the correct size and be released at the right rate. Smaller bubbles take longer to dissipate than larger ones, thus offering more oxygen for bait. The more oxygen, the longer bait will survive. To see if aeration system is working correctly, check to see how long bubbles last in the livewell unit.

Aerator Types

There are many different types of aerators available. Some of the most popular are the air stone, venturi and spray bar. The style used should be determined by the type of bait being housed. Resilient baits such as the mummichog and striped killifish can handle a spray bar aerator. This style works by shooting streams of water to produce bubbles. This method can prove to be to extreme for smaller, more delicate baits. Those are better served by an air stone style. Air stones tend to be quieter and gentler than spray bars. The venturi style aerator is used either as a floater or is attached to the bottom with suction cups. This style provides the smallest size of air bubbles of the three styles.

Livewell Options

The type of livewell used for bait is just as important as the aeration system when it comes to keeping bait alive. There are many different styles to choose from. Generally, the best options are either oval or round. These shapes offer the best circulation. Rectangular or square-shaped livewells also work; however, when utilizing these styles, it is important they are designed with an embedded directional discharge in order to maintain a circular motion of water flow.

Joshua Keaton
Joshua Keaton

Joshua is our senior staff writer for and He is an avid hunter, clay shooter and amateur photographer.