The costs of live bait shrimp continue to rise every year. Stop paying those high prices! In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to catch live shrimp for bait (plus it’s fun, and it saves money!).
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Table of Contents
How to Catch Live Shrimp For Bait
To catch live shrimp for bait you can use a cast net, dip net, or shrimp trap. The cast net is the most effective method. Shrimp are easier to see at night, due to their glowing eyes. Look for shrimp in in shallow grass flats, or use a boat to access brackish areas that shrimp congregate such as near deep holes or bridges and passes.
Cast netting for shrimp can be done off of a boat, a dock/pier, or by simply wading in shallow water. Depending on your location, shrimp runs and seasons vary throughout the year. Spring and early summer are usually popular times, as well as winter in certain areas.
A quick call to your local bait and tackle shop should tell you when the shrimp are running in your area.
Cast net Method
The cast net is by far the easiest and most efficient way to catch live shrimp for bait. Due to their large size, cast nets are capable of covering a much larger area than smaller dip nets.
For example, a standard 8-foot cast net covers an area of 50 square feet! Many anglers prefer to use a boat and their fish finders to look for shrimp schools in deep water. They position the boat over the school and throw the net letting it sink all the way to the bottom.
This method can be very lucrative, often catching gallons of shrimp if conditions are ideal.
If you don’t have a boat don’t worry. Many popular fishing piers and docks allow cast nets, and these are great elevated positions to throw cast nets down onto passing shrimp.
During the daytime shrimp often stay deep and can be difficult to spot under the glare of the water. At night, consider using a lantern or even a green submersible light in the water.
Shrimp eyes reflect light very well at night…they are easy to spot as they swim by usually 1-3 feet under the surface. Where there is one, there are likely others!
Dip net Method
Although the dip net method is not nearly as efficient as the cast net, it’s certainly a bit easier on the back, ha! And, it’s much more precise.
To use a dip net to catch live shrimp for bait you’ll want to go during the night in shallow grass flats, mudflats or bays. Use a small headlamp or flashlight and slowly wade or paddle around looking for shrimp and their reflective eyes.
Most of the time, the shrimp do not flee, and you can simply walk up to them and scoop under and lift them up and into your bait bucket.
You can also try dip netting with specialized shrimp nets. These nets have extra long handles (sometimes over 12 feet long!) that allow you to dip passing shrimp from a high dock or bridge.
This method is very popular in the southeastern gulf states of Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.
The last method to catch shrimp for live bait is by using a shrimp trap. This method is much more passive and requires you to leave the trap in the water at least for a few hours, but often overnight.
Shrimp traps are specially designed to allow shrimp to enter, but not escape. Anglers often bait these traps with items like tuna fish or pet food.
This method can work very well in areas where shrimp are common, and you’ll often catch all sorts of other cool critters as well.
There are a few other methods to catch your own live shrimp, but they aren’t nearly as popular or common. They include the push net, frame net, or haul seine.
NOTE: Always check the local regulations in your area. Each state has different recreational shrimp regulations, which may prohibit certain methods of take, and may include closed seasons or areas.
Look For The Eyes
Shrimp have special reflectors under their retina that make their eyes glow during the night. This is great for fishermen because it makes them easy to spot with a headlamp, lantern or submersible light.
After sunset, find a shallow protected area and scan it with a small light. Look for the distinct glow of two small eyes. Sometimes this glow can be very vibrant and other times its very subtle, it just depends on the water clarity.
Looking for glowing shrimp eyes, especially on grass flats or around residential docks is a great tip for anyone looking to catch some shrimp.
Use a Green Submerisble Light
Consider using a submersible green light to not only attract shrimp but tons of other baitfish and marine life too.
These submersible style lights are fully waterproof and easy to run off a small battery. Simply hang it off the dock or your boat and wait patiently.
After a few minutes, you will be surprised at what swims by (I’d also have a fishing pole ready!)
Tape Your Nets For Deep Water
When throwing a cast net in deep water (10 feet or deeper) nets will slowly begin to close as the net sinks. This is due to the weights and reduced drag of the net.
That means you could throw a perfect circle on the surface, but by the time it sinks down to the bottom it’s more like an ice cream cone.
To prevent this, try putting a temporary strip of duct tape along the bottom of your cast yet. This tape will act as a ‘sail‘ creating drag and forcing the net to stay open as it sinks. Kind of like wing flaps on a plane forcing it to lift.
Remember, during the daytime shrimp will often stay in deeper water. And certain times of the year they are caught in deep holes sometimes up to 25 feet deep!
Keeping the net as open as possible will greatly increase your catch rates.
Yep, you read that correctly. Wet cat food to be exact. Shrimp are filter feeders, and cat food is an inexpensive bait used to attract shrimp.
Buy a few cans from your local dollar store and poke 5-6 holes in the can on the top and bottom.
By simply poking the holes you’ll allow all that greasy, stinky catfood particles to dissolve in the water. Its pretty much like a dinner bell for shrimp (and crabs too). This method works best for shrimp traps or ‘chumming’ shrimp in open water for a cast net.
Time Of Day
Although shrimp can be caught both during the day and at night, there are some pros and cons.
Shrimping At Night
Catching shrimp at night is by far the most popular time. This is mainly because shrimp are much easier to spot with the use of artificial lights that simply don’t work during daylight.
Shrimp are also more active during the night. They are often moving through the water, feeding and coming much closer to the surface where they are easier to see.
Shrimping During The Day
Shrimping during the day is popular, but many anglers rely on electronics to find the shrimp. Boats will often scan the bays, channels or rivers looking for large schools of shrimp along the bottom.
Large shrimp will appear as tiny specks on a fish finder, but with a little practice, you’ll know what to look for.
During the daytime there is usually a glare on the water from the sun, so be sure to wear polarized sunglasses to reduce the glare.
There is no doubt that shrimp are one of the all-time best live bait choices for saltwater and freshwater fishing.
But, if you are like me your tired of spending an arm and a leg on buying them, or worse, finding out they’re sold out the day you want to go fishing.
Next time, follow the tips in this article and I’ll bet you too can learn how to catch live shrimp for bait and save some money! Thanks for reading!
Download a copy of my FREE Lure Color Selection Chart & Knot Guide!
Stay up to date with fishing reports, tackle reviews, industry news, and much more! We respect your privacy, unsubscribe at any time.