If you want to use live bait to catch predatory fish, such as northern pike, you are going to need to get some live fish to use as bait. Unfortunately, you cant simply go to your nearest fishing tackle shop or bait store and buy live bait, you have to actually catch it yourself.
This is fine but the questions of how do you catch live bait? And what is the best way of catching live bait? Often spring up, and for good reason. There are a few methods you can use to catch live bait but the most popular are as follows;
With a net
Netting fish can, sometimes, be the quickest and easiest way of catching live bait to catch northern pike. I am not talking about one of the those small pond dipping nets you used to use as a kid at the sea side or during a school geography trip, oh no I am talking about a small trawl net.
In order to use a trawl net the river is going to have to shallow and safe enough for you to wade through it. Ideally, the water should not come any higher than your waist but if you feel comfortable wading through deeper water that is your look out.
In order to use a trawl net you are going to need the assistance of a friend. You hold one end of the net, your friend holds the other and with a person at each side of the river you simply walk upstream, i.e. against the current, and gradually walk in towards each other closing the net as you go and trapping the fish.
Any fish that are too small to use as bait should be returned to the water unharmed, as should any fish that you dont think you are going to use. Under no circumstances should you take more fish than you are actually going to use as bait.
Catching live bait with a net is only suitable when the river is shallow enough to wade through and you have a friend to help you. If neither one of these apply you are going to struggle to catch live bait with a net.
With a trap
Fish traps, often referred to as minnow traps, are another way you can catch live bait to catch northern pike. You can buy minnow traps although this is an unnecessary expense as they are quick and easy to make and require easily accessible materials. All you need to make a minnow trap is a large plastic bottle, a sharp knife, some gaffer tape, some string and some bread to entice the fish in to the trap.
One of the advantages of using a minnow trap is that you can simply set the trap, walk away and do something else while the trap works its magic. Ideally the trap should be left overnight and when you return the following morning it should be full of fish you can use as live bait to catch pike.
The main disadvantage of using a minnow trap is that you have to plan your pike fishing session. The trap needs to be left several hours to work, and even then there is no guarantee you will have bait to us, so you cant simply think I want to go live baiting for work one day and have access to live bait for the session.
With rod and line
As its name suggests, this is catching the live fish with a fishing rod or pole, and it is by far the easiest and best way of catching live bait you can use to catch pike. When catching live bait with a rod you can use any rod you like. The cheapest way is to buy a childs starter kit, which consists of a small telescopic rod and fixed spool reel. These fishing kits arent great quality but they dont need to be. The best thing is they only cost a few bucks.
When catching live bait with a rod and line you need to fish as light as possible and use the weakest line, the smallest hooks and the smallest bobber you can get away with. Small bait fish are greedy and in plentiful supply, so you wont have any problems getting some.
The best thing about catching bait fish with a rod and line is you have instant access to the bait, which means it can be as fresh as possible. If you catch one or two bait fish and then start pike fishing you can always go and catch some more as and when required. So, if you wake up one morning and think I fancy going live baiting for pike today you can always catch your bait with rod and line.
What is the best way to catch live bait?
If you have a pike fishing session planned in a day or so and want to use live bait to catch pike the easiest way to catch bait fish is to trap them in a minnow trap because it simply involves setting the trap and walking away. However, there is the likelihood you wont get any bait fish when you return to check the trap, what then?
Overall, the best way to catch live bait is to use a rod and line. Using this method ensures the bait is as fresh as possible, is entertaining (after all you are still fishing right) and since you catch the live bait as you need it you are not going to take out more live bait than you actually need.