When it comes to fishing live bait, most anglers stick to night crawlers, leeches or minnows, but during the summer there are countless critters crawling around, which make great live bait alternatives. Most can be found in or near the water and will produce some exceptional results.
Mid-summer is a time of plenty when it comes to food for fish. There is food everywhere they look, from insects and minnows to amphibians and crustaceans – it is a regular fish buffet. Because there is so much food available, it can sometimes be difficult to find a live bait that works consistently, or even from one day to the next. A great strategy to beat this problem is to mix it up; come prepared with a variety of live bait alternatives.
Some bait stores sell a few live-bait alternatives, but in most cases, it will be up to you to gather the bait. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but it can be a valuable learning experience. Walk along the bank of a stream or the shoreline of a lake. Wade the shallow water. What do you see? It’s likely you will see grasshoppers, frogs, crayfish, snails, clams and much more. These are all foods that fish are eating during the summer. Gather what you find and put them to work in the water.
Here are some of the top alternative live baits you should try this summer:
Crayfish: A variety of fish love to eat crayfish, especially smallmouth bass and trout. Hook the crayfish through the tail and let it sink to the bottom. Give it a slight jerk once in a while to give it some action.
Grasshoppers: Sunfish, trout and bass love grasshoppers. Ideally, they should be fished near shore where overhanging vegetation or lily pads are found – areas where a grasshopper might fall into the water.
Clams and snails: Sunfish and bass are the best targets when fishing clams and snails. The best strategy is to break open the shells and attach the insides to your hook. For clams, it is best to let the insides sit in the sun for a while, to allow it to harden. This will make it easier to keep it on your hook.
Grubs: Like nightcrawlers, grubs seem to be everywhere you put a shovel in the ground. They make a great alternative bait for sunfish, trout and bass.
Frogs: Bass and even northern pike can be taken on live frogs. One of the best times to use them is during the low-light hours of dawn and dusk.
Other bugs: Many terrestrial insects find their way into the water. Besides grasshoppers, some of the best bugs are crickets, beetles and ants.
Using alternative live baits increases your options during the summer months and can help you catch more fish. Before using any live bait, it is best to check your state fishing regulations for information on what live baits are legal.