How to Make a Live Bait Tank


A live bait tank is an important tool for keeping your baitfish investment safe while angling. Minnows, shiners and shad produce excellent results, but they are expensive and must have an aquatic environment with circulating air for your bait to survive. At the same time, you need an easy, portable solution for taking bait to the fishing spot. The bait tank should also be easy for you to retrieve a baitfish when you need one, without trying to corner a minnow and extract it from a school in the bucket. Read on to make your own inexpensive, portable bait tank.

Things You'll Need

  • 2-gallon plastic container with snap-on lid
  • 1 1/2-gallon plastic container
  • Battery-powered air pump, available at tackle shops, aquariums and pet stores
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Plastic tubing
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Electric drill
  • Duct tape
  • 1/8-inch drill bit
  • All items are available at hardware and home improvement stores except the air pump.
  • Drill 1/8-inch holes in the sides and bottom of the 1 1/2-gallon plastic bucket, taking care not to crack the container. You'll need enough holes to allow the water to drain quickly when the bucket is raised. The holes can be drilled randomly or in precise rows, depending on your preference.

  • Drill one hole on the side of the 1 1/2-gallon container near the top lip and another hole directly opposite the first.

  • Cut apart a wire coat hanger and insert one end through the first hole in the top lip of the 1 1/2-gallon container.

  • Bend the wire around itself two or three times with pliers to secure it to the hole.

  • Thread plastic tubing onto the coat hanger wire and clip the excess. This will provide added comfort for your handle.

  • Push the other end of the wire through the second hole and bend around itself two or three times with pliers.

  • Bend the wire and plastic tubing upward to create a handle for the container.

  • Create a second handle for the 2-gallon container and drill holes in either side of the container to secure the wire handle using pliers.

  • Drill a hole in the center of the lid for the 2-gallon container.

  • Place the 1 1/2-gallon container inside the 2-gallon container.

  • Thread the plastic hose for the air pump through the hole in the container lid and lower it into the 1 1/2-gallon container.

  • Secure the battery-powered air pump to the lid with duct tape and attach the plastic air hose to the side of the pump.

  • Fill the containers two-thirds with creek water or other water suitable for your type of baitifsh.

  • Add baitfish to the water and place the lid on the 2-gallon container.

  • Switch on the battery-powered air pump.

  • Retrieve baitfish one at a time by lifting the smaller container and allowing the water to drain. The water should drain in 10 seconds or less if you have drilled enough holes.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can eliminate the need for a second container by using a handheld net, available at aquarium shops, although catching baitfish with a net may take longer than a quick-drain container. Use proportionally larger containers for larger baitfish, such as mullet for saltwater fishing from a boat.

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