Frozen Bait

Many kinds of live bait can be frozen and kept for a later time when you can't get live bait. You can often buy frozen bait cheaply, or you can prepare it yourself. You can freeze the right amount for each trip and keep it a long time until needed. Frozen baits also make good chum.

Chum is bait that's put out to attract fish to an area. Pieces of fish and other bait make good chum and you can freeze them whole and grind them up when needed or grind them up and freeze the chum in containers for later use. Chumming isn't legal in all areas though, so you should check with your local authorities first.

Kinds of Frozen Bait

Just about any kind of minnow or baitfish can be frozen and used later. Freezing them does make them soft and they won't stay on the hook as well as when fresh, but they will work. Freeze whole shiners, small shad, and other small fish in cartons to thaw and use later. If possible freeze the fish separately on a cookie sheet then dump them into a container with a tight top. This allows you to take out a whole minnow without chipping apart a chunk of frozen fish or waiting for the whole block to thaw.

Earthworms don't freeze well at all and you shouldn't bother trying. They're usually fairly easy to find in bait stores, so plan on buying them fresh rather than trying to freeze them.

Bigger baitfish can be frozen whole then cut up after they thaw, or you can cut pieces the size you will use and freeze them like individual minnows. Freezing fish in cartons of water will help them keep in better condition longer but they are harder to use since you have to let the whole block thaw. If you're planning on grinding them up for chum, it doesn't matter whether you freeze them whole or in blocks of ice.

Crayfish can be frozen whole for later use as can frogs, crabs, and salamanders, but they don't work as well when frozen. Clams will work after being frozen and are best if you freeze them in the shell; the shell will open and you can get the meat out easier. Shrimp and squid both freeze well and can be used whole or cut up after thawing. Hellgrammites can be frozen separately and used when thawed, but live ones are better bait.

Crickets, mealworms, wax worms, catalpa worms, and grub worms can all be frozen in a container with corn meal in it. The meal keeps them from sticking together and from becoming mushy when thawed. Catalpa worms are probably the best of the group to use after freezing.

Other soft-bodied baits like sandworms and bloodworms don't freeze well at all. They become mushy after freezing, and the only way you can use them is to put them in net bags. With these and other very mushy baits, cut a small square of net material, such as pantyhose, and wrap the bait it in, tying the top together. Then attach it to the hook inside the net bag. Other baits are better for that purpose. Although they have soft bodies, leeches can be frozen individually and you won't have the problem of them wrapping around the hook as they do when they're fresh. Wasp larvae can be frozen in the nest and used later but they do become softer, and you can't refreeze them.

How to Fish Frozen Bait

Some fish like blue catfish seem to take frozen bait almost as well as live bait. Others such as bass are unlikely to hit bait that's not alive. Flounder and other bottom-feeding saltwater fish will hit frozen bait, and some game fish will hit whole frozen baitfish when trolled or given movement some other way.

Add a small inline spinner in front of your hook to give flash to frozen bait. This will help attract game fish that usually feed on live bait and make frozen bait more appealing.

Since frozen bait often becomes softer, the use of a double or treble hook can help. You don't have to worry about injuring the bait since it is already dead, so use a double or treble hook and stick it into the bait in more than one place. Try to arrange it so it hangs naturally on the hook. You can also use a bait holder rig with two hooks tied together with a short leader. Stick one hook in the head of the frozen bait and the other in the tail to hold it better, or keep it straight in the case of a small frozen minnow.

Frozen bait won't have any action of its own but it works well for bottom feeders that scavenge for food. Rig it on a fish finder rig or a simple sinker and hook, cast it out, and let it sit for catfish in fresh water and grouper in salt water. For fish that prefer a moving bait, drift it on spreader rigs or bait walkers (see Chapter 9 for more on rigs and bait walkers). Tipping a jig with a frozen minnow and casting it will work for walleye and other fish that like movement in their food, too.

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