Fresh caught bait can make the difference between a slow day or a productive fishing trip. In the Chesapeake Bay, live baits are used for catching striped bass, flounder, speckled trout, sea trout, cobia, white perch, catfish, and other fish.
Live bait is often found around launching areas, piers, boat slips, bulkheads, and other manmade structures. Creeks, canals, and shallow shorelines are also good locations for catching bait.
The Sabiki rig is one of the most popular setups for catching small fish for bait. Consisting of a series of small, shrimp like lures, sabiki rigs are slowly jigged near the bottom in areas where baitfish congregate. When species such as spot, silver perch, and pinfish are abundant, anglers often tip Sabiki rig hooks with tiny morsels of bloodworm or fishbites.
Dipnetting is a common method for catching bait. Dipnets are available in a variety hoop diameters, mesh sizes, and handle lengths. Dipnets are useful for harvesting species such as soft crabs or grass shrimp.
Minnow traps are used for catching mummichogs, sheepshead minnows, and killifish for flounder fishing. Most minnow traps have a cylindrical shape with funnels at each end.
Fish traps are used for catching spot and pinfish. Most models are made from square mesh wire and include a bait box and one or more funnels for fish to enter.
A cast net is another popular option for harvesting bait. A cast net is tossed in the water and allowed to sink momentarily before retrieving. In contrast to hook and line fishing, cast nets can catch fish that do not take baits or lures.
Seines are used for catching bait along shallow shorelines. Seining is done with two fishermen, one at each end on the net. Seines are used to catch a variety of baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and other baits. Although time consuming and cumbersome to fish, seines are useful for catching large quantities of bait.
One often-overlooked option for catching bait is the standard 4 door crab trap. These simple-to use traps can be used to catch hard crabs, doublers (jimmy crabs protecting peelers or soft crabs), and incidental baits such as spot or perch.
Like other types of recreational fishing, harvesting fish and shellfish for bait is subject to a number of regulations. Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission provide information about fishing regulations.