Keeping bait alive in small bait tank

Drew Stephens

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Dec 6, 2017
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Ventura, CA
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Drew Stephens
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Sunbird Neptune 230
Whatsup guys, I was wondering anyone had any tips on keeping bait alive in smaller bait tanks built into boats. You know the square ones in the back corner of boats from the factory. The first time I used it the guy at the bait dock said its big enough for a half scoop which was 3 or 4 passes. Ran from CI harbor to anacapa and fished a few hours came back and had maybe a total of 60% die off at the end of the day which I was happy with. Yesterday I went out of ventura and got one single giant scoop and 90% died in an hour fishing the breakwall. Didnt even run the boat. I have a larger bait tank I havnt installed yet but I was wondering how you guys keep bait alive in those little square tanks. I know kayakers do it.
 
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ErnieG

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Aug 4, 2011
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Those aren't really bait tanks, those are livewells. Mackerel are a lot tougher than sardines and will stay alive pretty well. That's what kayakers are putting in there most of the time. The truth is sardines are just fragile and you really need a west coast style bait tank to keep them alive.

So make your own mackerel or unfortunately just gotta deal with the die off.
 

Tar Pit

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  • Mar 7, 2006
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    Reno NV
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    Friend of Bucko Shaw
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    None.
    Sardines need a round bait tank and a lot of room. Also drive out slow the sardines will die if bounced around.
     
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    pacificscout

    Hey! You got any frozen ice?
  • Jul 28, 2012
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    Fullerton
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    Wally
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    16ft Scout EMBUSTERO
    I think my boat has a 13gal.
    When I buy bait, the least is $20 and stuffs the tank.
    They die off pretty fast.
    To small. I find it better if I make mackerel. Hopefully small ones or try to bum some pieces of bait from other boaters.
    That’s why I like plastics.
     
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    stanky1

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    Sep 11, 2009
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    Carlsbad
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    Squid Mark
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    Scout 175 Sportfish
    I use the square live well that is built into the boat. It is my Achilles heel for sure. I have learned not to overcrowd it or the bait has a significantly faster die off. The bait doesn’t do well in a washing machine, so I also pay more attention to my speed as I race to get to my starting point for fishing. Lastly, my seawater pick up is nil at speed so I need to stop every 2 miles to refill the tank with oxygenated water. I thought about pumping oxygen through an aquarium air stone when under way, but I might get a build up of oxygen in the bilge and become a bomb.
    Overall my bait is good for short excursions, but on a long haul I have few survivors and most of them need life support or a scooter to get around.
     
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    PaDDy Killer'

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    May 9, 2008
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    First thing don't overcrowd the bait. I would rather go to the islands with 20-30 pieces of good bait then a tank full of beat bait. Add a bait tank light to your live well. It helped my striper a ton. I just wired a small l.e.d. light to the bait pump so it goes on and off with that. Are scales able to collect at the bottom of the tank? If so you can modify your outlet to help remove scales from getting in there gills. If the bait looks scaly/beat at the receiver take on less into the tank and the rest in a bucket for chum. Those stock tanks work great for squid and macks. And like others said slow down in the weather and chop and you will be good till you get the other tank installed.
     
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    Drew Stephens

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    Dec 6, 2017
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    Ventura, CA
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    Drew Stephens
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    Sunbird Neptune 230
    How big is your bait tank? Is your water circulating pump working? How many gph? Need more info if you want educated responses.
    I’d like to answer these questions but I have no idea to any of those questions. I could look in the bilge for the pump and see what it says. It’s maybe 10 gallons. Don’t have circulating pump. It’s got a water pickup that brings continuous fresh water in, there’s a pipe in the middle with an overflow vent on top so when it reaches a certain height water starts spilling over and out the through hull.
     

    SaltH20Angler

    I'm not superstitious... cuz it's bad luck.
  • Aug 6, 2016
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    I know a couple guys...
    Welcome to what most guys with smaller bait tanks have been trying to overcome for a long time.

    This is the same reason why a lot of private boaters have challenges catching decent numbers of offshore fish on the calm days that afford a chance to make the run safely.

    Not much you can do but to follow the advice above or do what a lot of guys have done... upgrade to a bigger boat... err, um... I meant bait tank.
     
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    bajachild

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  • Jul 13, 2005
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    mike
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    2019 Montauk 170
    The built-in live-well in my 170 whaler blows. 22 gallons and square. It’s got a 500gph pump to it but it doesn’t circulate. It sprays from the top. Overflow center post. I don’t use it. Ive
    Got a 22g oval kodiak with a 750gph mounted on the transom. My bait NEVER dies and it’s stuffed and gets the shit beat out of them. Even after 100 miles. Get another tank.
     
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    pukahd

    I’m getting nibbles
    Oct 30, 2004
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    Brian
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    I have a Cabo216 and the boat has 2 rectangular built in tanks which are great for Mackeral and Squid. But for dines, it’s a death box. Deans need a circular tank. I added a 35 gallon oval tank with a 850 Gph pump and I hardly have any dead bait even in rough conditions crossing over to Catalina. On my 17’ Whaler I had a 32 g Kodak poly oval tank which I blacked out the sides and could fish all day with barely any dead baits. Before blackening out the walls, I would get a lot of dead bait as the deans wouldn’t circle and would always bunch up red nosed swimming towards light as the tank was poly. Nite and day difference with a blacked out tank. Dines circle ⭕️ and happily poop in the tank.
     
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    azbaseball

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    Apr 2, 2007
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    mike de vito
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    20ft nitro
    I am not sure but can you install a round wall inside the bait tank so the bait does not get stuck in the corners. maybe some flexible plastic sheeting
     
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    Shewillbemine

    "should of" is NOT a thing
  • Oct 19, 2012
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    Been there, done that man. There really isn't much you can do. Those are meant for keeping larger fish alive and East Coast fishing (when you might need like 12 shrimp LOL).

    Bite the bullet and get a plastic one (if you don't want to spend money on fiberglass) from West Marine. You're throwing away money on dying bait anyway, so it'll add up pretty quickly.
     
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    MattFred1414

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  • Jan 3, 2020
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    I have a 35 gallon built in. When I make longer runs I plug the overflow and pressurize it so they aren’t sloshing around as much. You’ll still have some die off but not as much.

    doing that and having a lighter hand on the throttle helps. But the built in ones aren’t great for dines.
     
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    bobafet1

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    May 17, 2021
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    Mike
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    Scout 235 XSF
    same problem here. anyone recommend some mods or is it a waste of time? Is the real solution to just add a better tank?
     
    bajachild
    bajachild
    I tried to mod mine in my whaler. I made a drop-down hose with holes in it like a flute to try and circulate the water. It helped for about 20 small baits, but no way for a scoop. I tried to round the corners. Nope. Made it too small. Still have a circulation problem as well. I even tried using the pump to drive my kodiak. Not enough water. I’ve got a Kodiak 22 with a 750gph on the transom. No dead bait ever.
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    Drew Stephens
    Drew Stephens
    Went out again today, same bait just cured for about a week longer. I kept throwing all the dead ones out making sure every bait was alive. Made an hour run stopped to refresh tank water every now and then. Ended up with maybe 50-60% die off for the 5 hours of fishing. But ended the day with about 30-40 pieces of really lively bait.
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    bajachild

    Almost A Member
  • Jul 13, 2005
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    so. cal
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    mike
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    2019 Montauk 170
    same problem here. anyone recommend some mods or is it a waste of time? Is the real solution to just add a better tank?
    You’ll wish you had more live bait at some time. Nursing an inferior tank is a losing battle. You lost 50% of $50. But it’s not just the money, it’s having precious bait when you need it, not a pile of deads in the back. It’s one of those things where you kick yourself after it’s done, mad you didn’t get one earlier.
     
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    woodfish330

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  • Aug 14, 2012
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    Well.... there are many answers in the above thread.... each correct in its own circumstance. Nice for many BD Brothers to post their own personal brand choices.... and pump sizes to help you. Now that's "real world" experience talking.... not some "schmo" at the local marine show!!

    One last thought.... even if you never put bait into those "cubby holes" again.... having a couple water proof boxes.... on the stern... for readily available.... lures / gloves / tools / lead... hell the list is endless. Experience says you never have too many storage spaces RIGHT THERE....where you need it. Just a thought. Good luck!
     
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    Sep 25, 2010
    12
    2
    Sugarland, TX
    Name
    Jack Muton
    Whatsup guys, I was wondering anyone had any tips on keeping bait alive in smaller bait tanks built into boats. You know the square ones in the back corner of boats from the factory. The first time I used it the guy at the bait dock said its big enough for a half scoop which was 3 or 4 passes. Ran from CI harbor to anacapa and fished a few hours came back and had maybe a total of 60% die off at the end of the day which I was happy with. Yesterday I went out of ventura and got one single giant scoop and 90% died in an hour fishing the breakwall. Didnt even run the boat. I have a larger bait tank I havnt installed yet but I was wondering how you guys keep bait alive in those little square tanks. I know kayakers do it.
    Here’s a tip that will change your fishing life and improve your live bait transport success the rest of your life.

    Just do what the expert live bait transporters do, insure safe continuous water quality during transport. Step 1 – learn what good, safe water quality mean and how do you achieve excellent water quality continuously every trip, every summer? It has nothing to do with luck or more experiments. It is about practicing fishery science.

    You bet it’s a real challenge that most live bait fishermen encounter every summer whether they admit they have problems or not. We all know that, it’s not a secret. Keeping bait fish not just alive but healthy all day or several days offshore in livewells and bait tanks fail often summer after summer. Live bait fishermen know these summer livewell kills, the disappointments and the high cost of live bait that dies in the box every summer intimately.

    The absolute best livewell or bait tank dependable. The ones that will keep bait fish alive and healthy, the wells that work every trip. The livewell or bait tank that works means the livewell will keep your bait alive and healthy for hours or days.

    It’s not the bait tank that kills your bait, it’s your deadly water quality inside your well or tank that’s killing and maiming your expensive baits.

    If your livewell or bait tank won’t keep your bait alive and especially healthy, you don’t have a livewell, you’ve got yourself real “death-well.” You can expect intolerable mortality, disappointment and high cost of bait loss ever summer for the rest of your fishing life until you fix the deadly water quality problem that’s killing your bait. Sounds like most of you are hoping for better survival outcomes and seen the pitiful mortality results every trip summer after summer for years.

    If you will just take the time and learn how to manage your livewell water quality and insure minimal safe water quality continuously in your well, your mortality problem can be easily reduced to zip plus the quality of your bait will be dramatically better and you bait cost will be reduced dramatically. There is more to it than flipping the livewell water pump on and hoping your bait will survive all day.

    Of course you can also keeping the same mistakes if you like. Continue having those deadly water quality problems every summer and count on continuation of high bait kills every summer.

    Try learning how to manage safe livewell water quality and learn new ways that will work great every trip, every summer.

    Search: live fish transport,water quality

    You always have a choice. You can make yourself a real functional livewell out of any crappy ole death-wells if you want to… there’s nothing to fixing the water quality problems in any livewell or bait tank. Simply learn how to manage your livewell water quality during transport.

    The best livewells are always the wells and bait tanks that will keep your bait fish alive and healthy for hours or days.

    By the way, it’s really easy to tell which wells and bait tanks are the good ones and which wells are the really bad ones. Look at your baits and they will always tell you the difference between a livewell and a death-well. Bait fish are smarter and communicate with fishermen than you might imagine when/if you pay attention to what they are telling you.
     
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