How to Catch Your Own Live Bait
Why pay for bait when a creek will give it to you for free?
If you have a shovel and a lawn, you’ve got all the worms you need. But that’s not the only productive bait around. The creek you fish can supply its own—for free. (Just be sure to check bait-collection regulations in your area before heading out.)
Rare is the fish that won’t devour one of these nasty aquatic larvae. Pick them off the bottom of submerged rocks by hand, or stretch a seine across a fast-water section of the creek and flip rocks upstream. The current will flush the bugs into the net.
Minnows are easier to catch off the main current. Approach from midstream with a seine and corral the school against the bank as the net closes. If the bait is thick and the water fairly shallow, a quick swipe with a long-handled dip net will also produce.
Choose a stretch of slow to moderate current, then flip rocks and scoop them up with a dip net. You can also stretch a seine across the creek and walk toward it from upstream while splashing and kicking rocks to spook crayfish down into the mesh.
Often overlooked, this bait is like candy to bass and big trout. Look for them under larger rocks near the water’s edge. Productive rocks are often dry on top but cool and moist underneath. Moss-covered rocks farther up the bank are prime spots, too.
Find some rotten logs or wood near a creek bed. Peel away the bark to expose the soft, dead wood, or poke around in the dirt underneath, and you’ll probably find some fat white grubs. Find a trout or crappie that won’t eat them and you’ve done the impossible.
The best way to catch hoppers is to walk through the tall grass that often flanks a stream with a cheap butterfly net. Just skim the net across the tips of the blades; you’ll have a dozen or more hoppers in a flash.