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A recent hot summer fishing trip off Fripp Island South Carolina found the fishing party aboard the “Sea Sea Rider” searching for live baits just beyond the surf.
“The schools of menhaden were scattered that morning and we were definitely having a hard time loading our cast net with livies,” said Craig May. “We finally gave up and ran back into the backwater tidal rivers and luckily found a nice bunch of menhaden. However our next challenge came in the way of our 20-gallon live bait well. Our bait well was rigged with a re-circulator pump, which did not include a saltwater pump.”
“After filling the small bait well with some 40 hand size pogies, we were faced with keeping them alive for a full day of offshore fishing. I had actually purchased a bottle of “Bait Fresh”, which I hoped would keep our menhaden alive and frisky for eight hours in our small 20-gallon bait well. I soon added the recommended amount and added a couple pounds of ice into the bait well as well. Our bait well was insulated as well to ward off the hot summer heat.”
With a live bait well jamming with live river menhaden, the “Sea Sea Rider” began to navigate the open ocean waters off Fripp Island for the “Betsy Ross”, a popular offshore fish haven.
“I was fishing with Edward Lampard and brothers, Tim and Brian White,” said May. “I knew how important our annual vacation was to them, which all hinged on our fishing success and keeping those menhaden alive. During past offshore fishing trips we had run into problems in keeping our baits alive!”
Eight hours later and a fish box topped off with a pair of fine cobia and king mackerel, the “Sea Sea Rider’s” bait well was still housing healthy live baits!
“This was the first time that we had live menhaden last all day without dying,” remarked May. “I think we only had two pogies die during the entire day of fishing. More importantly, the menhaden were not red nosed and kept that silver shine that attracts strikes from near and far away game fish. On the way back to Fripp Island we stopped at a couple of crab traps that we had set out earlier that morning and began filling them with our remaining menhaden. We actually had to slam them on the deck of our boat to kill them before putting them in our two crab traps. That’s how lively they were!”
“The next day we went deep sea fishing once again and added “Fresh Bait” to our small re-circulating live baitwell to insure our live baits stayed alive all day. Our “Super Charged” baits attracted a wide variety of strikes from deep water game fish, without the worry of our live baits dying!”
After a long day of hot summer fishing, the “Sea Sea Rider” returned to Fripp Island and retrieved enough
blue crabs from their two traps to enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious delicacies from the sea.
I first became aware of adding chemicals to keep both bait fish and game fish alive in live wells and bait wells a few fishing seasons ago when fishing a redfish tournament out of Venice, Louisiana. Both my son Terry David and I were waiting in a long line of backwater boats to weigh in our fish when I noticed the boat in front of ours was not rigged with a live well. Instead the two fishermen had rigged a 110-quart insulated cooler with an oxygen pump.
When it was their turn to weigh in their two redfish, they actually had a hard time catching the frisky reds from the small cooler. Eventually they dumped all of the water from the cooler and the two super charged redfish onto the floor of their bay boat!
Later I asked the two fishermen how they had kept their catch so lively?
“We added some bait-fish powder into our live well early that morning when we had first caught our two largest redfish,” said the two fishermen. “We also added a pound or so of ice to cool the water down in the cooler. During the day we would occasionally add ice to the live well and check on our fish. We had to be extremely careful that our reds did not jump out of the cooler because they were so charged up by the oxygen, chemicals and cool water temperature!”
With this in mind, I stored a bottle of “Rejuvenate” in our boat’s storage compartment during a redfish tournament held on the border of Texas and Louisiana. During the early morning hours Terry David and I landed two legal redfish and placed them in our boats’ catch and release well. The fish stayed alive all morning when we decided to navigate some real skinny shallows. Our boat’s livewell pump began to pump muddy water into our catch and release well causing the smaller redfish to roll over on its back and belly up.
Knowing that we would be penalized eight ounces for a dead fish, we quickly navigated off the mud flat into deep clean water. Soon our live well was filled with clean water by pumping out the muddy water, while allowing the freshwater pump to replace it with clean water. Meanwhile Terry David had grasped the redfish by the lower jaw and was keeping the red upright in our live well. Next step was to add a couple of tablespoons of rejuvenate to the water and hope that the chemicals would completely revive our dying redfish.
Five minutes later our bellied up redfish had completely recovered and we once again began to cast for tournament size redfish without the worry of our catch dying and suffering the penalty!
Obviously there are numerous saltwater fishing boats that are equipped with small live bait wells, where fishermen have a difficult time keeping their live baits alive for a full day of offshore fishing. Adding chemicals to rejuvenate baitfish and to keep them shiny and frisky for a full day of fishing is definitely a huge factor.
More importantly, with either an oxygen or re-circulator pump rigged to your live well, fishermen will not have to worry about their high speed pick up becoming clogged or, worse yet, developing an air lock.
However there is one factor that many saltwater fishermen never even consider. Baitfish often school on the surface during the early morning hours and then migrate deeper where the water temperature may be a degree or two cooler. With a saltwater pump pulling in warm surface water all day you are actually slowly killing your baitfish!
Here it is important to make sure that your live bait well is insulated.
The next step is to fill your bait well early in the morning with clean saltwater just before catching baitfish. Once the baitfish have been placed into the live bait well, turn on the oxygen or re-circulator pump. You must note that some live bait fishermen use both an oxygen pump and a re-circulator pump at the same time. And there are re-circulator pumps on the market today that not only re-circulate the water in the live bait well, but they also pump in oxygen as well.
After the baitfish have been in the bait well for 15 minutes, pump out the old water and then pump in fresh saltwater. Baitfish will often regurgitate when placed in confined quarters and also take a “rest stop,” which completely pollutes the water where nothing could live!
Once the bait well is filled with clean water, place the recommended amount of chemicals in the water and add a pound or two of ice. Now you can spend the day fishing instead of worrying about your live baits dying!
For more information on “Bait Fresh”, visit bassmedics.com, for oxygen and re-circulator pumps visit oxyedge-chum.com, or keepalive.com.