The use of natural bait, whether live, dead, whole or cut into strips or chunks, makes up a large part of saltwater fishing. In general, the most successful bait is that which is found naturally in a given area and regularly fed upon by the targeted game fish. While various baitfish, shrimp and other organisms that are common to certain areas are often sold in local bait stores, purchasing them regularly can become costly. That is one reason many avid bait fishermen choose to catch their own. Others may simply enjoy the fun and satisfaction of catching bait by their own means. But perhaps the best reason to catch ones own bait is that game fish, more often than not, prefer food they are accustomed to eating from their own environment.
There are numerous ways to catch bait; most involve the use of various nets, but a variety of traps are also used. Squid and large baitfish and, more likely, fish that are caught for both sport and bait can be taken with a baited hook. Keep in mind that many states regulate the types and amounts of bait a person may legally catch, as well as the size and number of nets, traps or other contraptions. State and local regulations should be checked before using any bait-catching devise.
Much like the predator game fish that prey upon them, baitfish, shrimp and other living organisms used as bait can be found at various locations throughout the sea. Coincidentally, bait that is found in shallow environs will usually be most effective on shallow-dwelling game fish. The same is true for bait and game fish inhabiting medium depths and deep water. To catch bait in shallow water, anglers employ dip nets, seines and traps in and around aquatic vegetation, jetties, piers and other protected areas. As one moves to deeper water, bait is generally found near offshore reefs, wrecks and oil rigs, where casting nets and traps are the primary means of collection. In offshore open waters (bluewater), where large fish like tuna, billfish and dorado thrive, massive schools of baitfish are often found roaming near the surface or near floating vegetation (kelp). Here, casting nets are used most often.