How to Hook a Live Fish for Bait

How to Hook a Live Fish for BaitBaitfish, such as shiners, chubs and minnows, prove effective in a variety of fishing situations. Ice fishermen across the northern United States use live baitfish on their tilts and jigging rods. Anglers also present live baitfish under floats to target species like crappie and bass. Learn the best ways to hook these fish so the bait remains lively and on the hook long enough to catch a fish.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Baitwell net
  • Bait bucket
  • Live baitfish
  • Fishing hooks
Step 1
Use a bait well net to scoop live baitfish out of your bait bucket or bait tank. This keeps your hands dry and reduces the chances of your injuring the fish so that it looks lively after you hook it.
Step 2
Hook your baitfish through the mouth when fishing with a float, a weighted bottom rig or when jigging through the ice. Baitfish hooked in this manner have a more natural look when fished by these methods. Pierce the fish through its lower lip first and then the upper one. Baitfish hooked through their lips do not tend to live long. Check them frequently, and replace them when they are no longer actively swimming.
Step 3
Hook your fish in the spot where its back fin ends and its tail begins. Find the fleshy area in between and piece it with the hook point. Avoid getting too near the dorsal fin with the hook, as this can kill the baitfish. Ice fishermen who want to present a shiner, sucker or chub under a tip-up typically hook their bait in this way. You may also use this procedure when fishing a baitfish with a bobber. Attach a split shot to the line within eight to ten inches of the bait so it cannot swim upwards.
Step 4
Hook the small baitfish through its tail when planning on fishing with a weight. Run the hook through the tail region, starting it right where the tail fins begin and pushing it through towards the front of the fish. The hook will come out well before the dorsal fin and point towards the rear end of the fish. In this way you may cast out your line and have your fishing weight settle to the bottom while the fish swims in a lively manner.
Step 5
Hook small pieces of a baitfish on the tip of jigs and ice fishing lures to get the attention of fish while you are jigging. Once a fish has bitten a baitfish on a tip-up and made it useless as live bait it can still contribute to your angling success. Cut the fish into pieces and hook whatever solid piece you can on the very tip of the hook before lowering it down.

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