Live Bait Basics

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Published on: May. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

funnel opening downstream. Minnows follow the fine stream of crumbs into the jar and can’t easily exit through the small funnel hole. Sometimes a jar will fill up with minnows in less than 10 minutes.

Some anglers hook minnows through the lips; others hook them behind the dorsal fin. Either way works fine, but I’ve found it’s usually best to hook them in a way that keeps the minnow alive. Suspend minnows from a bobber or jig them around structure. On streams, anglers typically tight-line on the bottom with sinkers or let minnows drift free in the current with no weight.

Non-game Panfish

The best way to catch these is with hook and line baited with crickets or worms. Small panfish are great bait for catching big catfish—particularly flatheads.

Flathead catfish are the connoisseurs of the catfish family, eating only live or freshly killed prey. Trotlines or limb lines, baited at dusk with live sunfish hooked behind the dorsal fin, are an effective means of connecting with these whiskered giants.

If you catch more—or larger—panfish than you need for bait, you can fillet and fry them. Even the small ones yield small but delicious fillets. Turn the fillets into poorman’s shrimp by boiling them for 3 to 4 minutes in water seasoned with shrimp seasoning, then chilling them in ice water. Served on a bed of lettuce with cocktail sauce, the fillets are quite tasty.

Live Bait and the Wildlife Code

Below is an excerpt on live bait regulations. You can pick up a copy of A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations at permit vendors or download a PDF at

Live bait includes: crayfish, freshwater shrimp, southern leopard frogs, plains leopard frogs, cricket frogs and nongame fish. Bullfrogs and green frogs must be taken under season limits and methods listed in the Summary of Fishing Regulations.

Methods: Live bait may be taken by trap, dip net, throw net, pole and line or seine. Live-bait traps must have a throat opening not more than 11/2 inches in any dimension, and must be labeled with your full name and address. Traps must be removed if they cannot be checked at least once every 24 hours. Seines must not be more than 20 feet long and 4 feet deep, with a mesh of not more than 1/2 inch bar measure. Live bait, except fish, may be taken by hand. Crayfish also may be taken by trap with an opening not

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