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Cast A Wider Net

Do You Have Enough Bait?

    As you may have figured out by now, I’m all about bait collection.  Some may consider it some sort of OCD with me but whether or not that’s the case, there is just a sort of relief knowing that in my fridge and/or freezer there are assortments of bait that I can grab at a moments notice.

The Shad

    It’s hard to talk to any catfish man without the shad coming up.  Shad is a very oily forage fish that is at the bottom of the food chain.  Around here there are two kinds of shad, the thread fin shad that max out in size at about 8 inches and the gizzard shad that can get upto 15 or so inches and may weigh a couple of pounds.

    There are a couple of ways to use these as bait.  If they are alive, you can just hook ’em and let them do their thing.  However, they are delicate and won’t stay alive very long.  Some guys just prefer to use the guts as bait.  This makes sense considering how much oil and scent that there is.  Personally, I haven’t mastered a way to keep them on the hook with confidence yet.  That being said, I mainly use them as cutbait.  Depending on the time of year and what size of bait the catfish are craving determines the size of the “steaks” I use.

    I’ve been in situations where the catfish may want them whole or cut in half.  Other nights the catfish may only want pieces no longer than a half inch.  You only find this out by experimenting.  So be sure you have plenty of shad on hand.

Gizzard Shad
Thread Fin Shad

How To Acquire Them

    This leads us to acquiring the shad.  Some bait shops that cater to the catfish men usually have them in stock frozen.  The reason for them being frozen is they are hard to keep alive.  Of all the types of fish I’ve had in aquariums and bait tanks the shad is by far the dumbest fish I’ve encountered.  The container needs to be round because if there’s a corner, they will find it and get stuck there.  It’s like they get lost and can’t turnaround or go backwards to move out of the corner.  Instead they will continually swim into the side, hitting their head into the walls until death occurs.  The other option is to load up on shad by collecting them yourself.  This is done easily by using a cast net.

Be sure to check your local laws and regulations before purchasing or catching shad to ensure the size guidelines as well as knowing how many are permitted to be caught and kept.

    Once you master how to throw it, you can have a surplus of premium bait for the whole season from just a night or two of collecting.  The first time I set out to get some, I was able to fill half of a cooler in just a couple of hours.  It ended up that my friend and I caught over 250 shad that night.  There were more but I stopped counting at 250.

    The scenario was pretty simple, when the water warms upto 55 to 60 degrees the shad will come to shore to spawn.  We just made our way back and forth along the shoreline targeting the different schools.  Even though you may miss or have a bad throw and scare the school off, no worries because it’s like I mentioned earlier, they are dumb and in a short time will return, giving you another chance.

Not Much Equipment Needed

    The only equipment needed is a headlamp, the net, a bucket and a cooler for temporary storage until you are able to separate them into freezer bags.  Depending on the size, determines how many can go into individual bags.  Usually I able to get around 6 or so.  I’ll use about that many in a night of fishing.  Taking a bag or two out the night before makes for an easy grab and go.

Until next time, tight lines.

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