How to Keep Herring Alive For Fresher Bait and Better Catches

Herring makes a great choice of bait if you want to entice larger fish, which is why anglers tend to target this baitfish for later use. However, you’ll want to use herring as bait while they are still alive, so you have to prepare a good environment for them if you won’t be using them immediately.

So what can you do to keep your herring lively until your next fishing trip? Read on as I show you how to keep herring alive to catch fish efficiently!

How to Keep Herring Alive

While it isn’t the hardest thing to do, it’s a bit tough keeping herring alive. If you care for them improperly, then it can cause the baitfish to get stressed out and die.

Be sure to take care of them well so you can keep them lively until your next fishing trip, following these tips:

1. Preparing the Bait Tanks

When you keep herring alive, you will need an adequate tank, about 20 gallons or larger. I use an oval tank to give your herrings a larger area to swim around. This is the first thing to purchase when you want to catch and keep your baitfish, making it worth the investment.

If you can, select tanks that have closed recirculating systems with separate filter compartments and Venturi aerators. These will also be well insulated to control water temperatures. If not, purchase a filter, pump, and venturi separately.

For those who don’t have the budget, you can use a homemade bait tank. The larger the tank, the better. You can search up on ways to build your bait tank, using a cooler and bubbler. However, this can only keep the herring alive for less than a day!

Do NOT use a boat live well that has an open system pumping lake water into it. It’s best to stick with a tank or cooler with a closed recirculating system to control the water temperature and quality.

2. What Water to Use?

It’s okay to use treated water if you want to save time and money, but it’s better to use water bought from a bait store. If you do use house water, make sure that there is no chlorine or that the water is neutralized with treatments.

You can also add salt to the waters to reduce scale loss while providing adequate electrolytes to your bait. Be sure that the salt is pure without any additives or iodine, adding one cup of salt every ten gallons of water. There should be no foam as well, using products such as “Foam Off” to reduce any foam in the tank.

3. Water Temperature

Most, if not all, baits will stay alive and healthy when the water temperature is below 70 degrees F but no less than 50 degrees F. Monitor it using a pool or aquarium thermometer.

You can maintain the water temperature by adding crushed or cubed ice to the water during summer. Make sure that it is unchlorinated ice, as the chemicals may kill the herring. While using frozen water bottles is fine, there’s a chance that it may hit your bait and weaken it.

4. Bait-to-Water Volume Ratio

Limit the number of herrings you place in your tank to prevent overcrowding. A good rule of thumb is to place 1-2 herrings per gallon of water. If you have smaller herrings, you can increase this by 3 herrings to one gallon. Do NOT overcrowd your herring, which causes them to get stressed and die!

5. Use Oxygen Systems

If you can, use a pure oxygen system for the bait tank, which can keep baits alive a bit longer. This is best if you own smaller tanks or overcrowd the baits. But if you do have a large-high-quality tank and won’t overcrowd herring, then it’s not a huge necessity (though this is up for debate).

6. Extra Tips When Handling Bait While Fishing

Besides what I mentioned above, here are bonus tips and things to take note of as you keep your bait alive:

  • When fishing, use healthy baits all the time and if you see any dark baits that swim near the surface, it indicates they are weak and need to be thrown out. Avoid reusing blue backs and change baits often during the summer, typically after 15 minutes they are on the hook
  • Net one bait at a time and wet your hands before handling it to prevent losing too many scales. Hold it gently by its back and stomach, not its sides, and hook it quickly to get them to the optimum water depth to fish quickly
  • Do NOT put your hands in the bait tank if you just applied bug spray or sunscreen, and do not spray and sunscreen around open bait tanks. This may poison the herring, killing them quickly
  • Keep the bait tank water within ten degrees of the water temperature you plan to fish in to prevent them from going into shock
  • Clean the tank filters daily to keep the water clean. You can use aeration and oxygen to reduce carbon monoxide, and if you plan to use them for only a day, then place a bit of ammonia in the waters. If you don’t open the tank often, then prop the lid open a bit to allow its gases to escape.

Read More: How to Keep Bloodworms Alive: The Quick Guide You Need

Do you want to learn more about how to catch and use herring as a fishing bait? Then check out this informative video:

Wrapping It Up

It’s crucial to keep your bait alive and fresh if you want to entice more fish because of its smell and movement. Fortunately, keeping bait (like herring) alive isn’t as hard as you think. With the proper environment and feeding, they can last for a long time until it’s time to use them for fishing.

I hope that these tips on how to keep herring alive gave you an idea to keep the bait fresh. Follow these tips to keep your future bait so you have better chances of getting a bite.

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