Uzzle: It pays to sweat the details
In a ritual that is repeated on just about a daily basis during the summer months I slowed my Skeeter down to a stop, shut off the big motor, grabbed the castnet and began to troll up to the Dupont outfall canal in search of live bait.
My clients sat down on the cooler to enjoy some breakfast while took care of the business of securing bait for our day on the water. As we reached the mouth of the outfall canal another boat with three anglers aboard passed in front of us while still using their big engine. The guy on the front was throwing the castnet like there was no tomorrow and the driver continually shifted from forward to reverse.
Upon seeing this I turned my boat away from the area and began throwing the castnet along the main bank. The farther I got away from the other boat the better luck I had at finding both shad and finger mullet. In just minutes we had plenty of frisky kicking bait while the other boat continued to struggle.
In fact by the time the other boat finally packed up and left my clients and I had already been fishing for nearly 20 minutes and had already caught a nice redfish and two undersized flounder.
“How come that guy couldn’t catch any bait ?” asked one of the anglers on my boat, “they left the big motor running and that spooks the baitfish, if they would have turned the big motor off and used the trolling motor they would have had much better luck” I told them.
During this time of the year when it seems that everyone is fishing the same pattern it pays big dividends to worry about the details. The Dupont outfall is probably the most popular place around to catch live bait and it can get crowded at times to say the least. Experienced anglers know that when the boat traffic is high the shad will be skittish so they try to use a quiet approach. Not only will the quiet approach catch you more bait, it will also help your neighbor catch more as well. A little bit of the golden rule goes a long way.
Once you have secured your live bait another big problem is keeping it alive. The biggest problem I see happening is that most folks try to keep too many shad or mullet in a livewell. How many days can you remember dumping out dozens of dead shad at the end of the day? By keeping a couple of dozen instead of a couple of hundred you can make your bait last much longer, even during the heat of summer.
Another helpful idea is to feeze a couple of plasic drink bottles full of water and adding them to your livewell in order to help keep the water cool. The bottles are easy to come by and will last much longer than just adding chunks of ice to the water. The cooler water temperature along with fewer shad in the livewell will keep your bait alive much longer.
Another little tip concerning live bait that will help you this summer, be aware of the kind of bait you catch. There are two or three different species of shad that can be caught during this time of year. Some do much better in freshwater than they do in saltwater. The threadfin shad is one that does not hold up well in saltwater compared to other species. If you think you may head to the south end of the lake or maybe the jetties then the threadfin is not one you want to keep. Now if you think you may be fishing the north end of Sabine or the either of the two rivers then threadfin will do fine.
Keep in mind that during this time of the year an angler who pays attention to the details will often be more successful than most. Catching live bait and keeping it alive does not have to be a battle as long as you have game plan.