How to catch live bait fish with minimal gear?

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John McDouall Stuart
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I've noticed some large rock pools which have loads of small fish in them. If you sneak up on the rock pool you see schools of them, and the moment they realise you're there they swim at lightning speed to the nearest hidy hole. So fast they're a blur.

Considering that live bait is likely one of the best possible types of bait, how would one go about catching these with only basic equipment?
I could try setting up a bait trap (cheap one from kmart) but I'd like to figure out a way to do it without such bulky equipment.
Plus the last time I tried using a bait trap the fish didn't want to go near it. It's bright green, and I think it needs to fade to avoid scaring the fish.

I crushed a few snail type things on the rocks (there are millions of them covering the rocks) and threw them in to see if the fish would eat them. The fish seemed to love them, although they were hesitant to come far out from their hiding spots, and would often come out, spot me, then swim straight back.

I'm wondering if I could use them for bait.

One idea I had was to empty my SS water bottle, put some bait in it, weight it down and then walk away for a while so the fish calm down and get used to it being there.
Then come back and lift my water bottle out of the water and see if any fish are hiding in it.
I'm guessing it would take them quite some time to get used to it though, so I might need to leave it there for hours, or even days, before they'll go into it.


I have attempted to catch live bait fish with tiny hooks... but they tend to just nibble all the bait away and never bite down enough to get caught.


I'm just trying to figure out how to catch fish with minimal gear (ie. primarily just my little pocket fishing kit, which isn't primitive, but it is basic), and without being there all day.
If there were only a few fish there I wouldn't want to use them as bait. (If something appears to be rare, then we should leave it alone IMO.)
But considering there were likely a hundred or more (in a medium/large rock pool) I don't see a problem with using a few of them.


I did consider setting up a rock or sand trap, where the fish swim in but can't find their way back out. That could be tricky because the fish are fairly small and the available rocks are quite large.

I'm tempted to try the plastic water bottle idea.... where you cut an X in the plastic bottle, push the triangles of plastic inwards, and put bait inside. However I don't tend to have a plastic bottle with me. I was hoping to come up with a way to catch them with what I often take with me for a walk down to the rocks.

Any ideas?
 
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Mickldo

Ray Mears
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Saltwater or Freshwater?

I have used the plastic bottle method to catch small fish and shrimps before. I used an old bottle I found on the ground on the hike in.

I can't see why a SS bottle wouldn't work. It might make it harder to see if you have anything in it before you pull it up but conversely the fish wouldn't be able to see you either so they wouldn't be spooked as much when you go to check it. Give it a try and let us know how it works out.

An item I always carry with me but haven't actually used for fishing yet is a mozzie head net. I use it to sleep in when the mozzies are bad but it could serve double duty as a fishing net. I haven't tried it yet as I don't want to smell fish while I am trying to get to sleep. I may have to get another net to practice with. My mate collects fish for his aquarium and just uses a simple scoop net so I can't see why the mozzie head net wouldn't work.
 

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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Saltwater or Freshwater?
At the moment.... salt water rock pools.
I've done more fishing in fresh water (in the past) but now I'm on the coast so the small fish I was referring to (in this post) are saltwater.

An item I always carry with me but haven't actually used for fishing yet is a mozzie head net.
Yeah I have one too. I actually wondered if I could turn it into a trap.
I've never used it yet (only got it recently) either for a mozzie net or a fish trap.

Would be interesting to try it.
 
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Hairyman

Ludwig Leichhardt
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Very small hooks with light line tied on the end of a small bush pole. Small shellfish or worms or insects for bait.
 

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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Very small hooks with light line tied on the end of a small bush pole. Small shellfish or worms or insects for bait.
I did try that with the smallest hooks I could find at kmart. However maybe I should try finding smaller ones at a good fishing shop.
I might need to sharpen the hooks though too (I do have a hook sharpener I bought for keeping in my small kit, for crudely sharpening my hatchet without the weight of a proper sharpening stone).

I've seen the baitfish hooks, but I don't know if they're smaller than the ones I had. Most of them come in packs of 10 or so already attached to line, and because I'm not going out on a boat and don't have a proper "baitfish" rod, then I'm likely to end up with just a birds nest of fishing line.
I guess I could cut them off and use them, as individual hooks.

I do have both heavy and light mono line on my pocket fishing kit. I might need to try it again in these rock pools.
Last time I tried it was off a small warf in an estuary, which is where they just nibbled all the bait away and didn't catch on the hook. But maybe if I drop it in front of some of the slightly bigger fish (and I mean only slightly bigger) in the rock pools, maybe they'll bite before the little ones demolish the bait.

I think some more experimentation is in order.
 

elof_alv

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Another way to use plastic bottle is to cut the top off to form a funnel and push it into the bottom of the bottle. Supposed to work great when baited.
 

bungie

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I have used the plastic bottle. cut the top of the bottle off where it opens out to full size, turn it 180 degrees and push the cap end back into the bottle. Then some bait in the bottle. they can not find their way out when startled.
 

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John McDouall Stuart
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Another way to use plastic bottle is to cut the top off to form a funnel and push it into the bottom of the bottle. Supposed to work great when baited.
Yeah that would work for really little fish, but some of these "little" fish are actually twice the size of the hole in a soft drink bottle.
However I did see a school of even smaller fish, so it could be worth trying to catch those ones.

I sat on top of the rock many of the fish were hiding under (and kinda meditated for a bit, then opened my eyes and just watched) trying to remain still.... and it was probably only 5 minutes before some of the fish were brave enough to come out and start swimming around.
Some of the ones that came out first were the really little ones that would fit through the bottle opening.

I guess that makes sense. The ones that survive to be big (ish) are the ones that are most cautious. Evolution in action.
So that could explain why it's the reckless adolescents that come out first, only 5 minutes or so after I stopped moving.

I only saw the slightly bigger ones briefly, as they came out to eat the bait, then spotted me and went back under the rock.

On a slight tangent.... I found it interesting that it was the starfish that seemed the most brave, coming out (so slow you could barely see them move) to eat the bait I'd thrown in there.
I'd love to do a time capture video of the starfish.... taking a photo every minute or two, then play it back to see them in action.
Within the 15-20 mins or so I was there though at that spot, I did notice one starfish had moved out on top of one of the bits of bait, and was obviously gobbling it up. But still, I could barely see it moving.
 
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elof_alv

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Yeah that would work for really little fish, but some of these "little" fish are actually twice the size of the hole in a soft drink bottle.
Just make another cut, bottle neck, to increase the hole size.
 

Jeepcreep

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I really like topics like this,ever since I was a boy,gathering game minimally was my every thought.As far as catching fish( especially small fish) can be accomplished several ways.I suggest everyone carry a thin square of cloth,( 42x42") is a good size,by tying string to each corner and connecting them to a central string,much like a parachute,then placing the cloth spread out on the bottom of a small stream,and weighting it with small pebbles,and baiting the center,simply lift the center string which will collapse the corners up around any small fish/ crawdads,that are nibbling the bait.
Another easier way would be to stretch a t-shirt or the 42x42" cloth across two thumb thickness sticks,forming a minnow sein.Simply wade upstream,with your make shift net,pinning any fish or water critter in the way.by probing the makeshift sein under the edge of rock or crevices,many critters will make a dash for Safty into your sein.
In Japan,and perhaps other countries,there is a movement toward micro fishing.The hooks are extremely tiny,along with lightweight line.the goal is competitive to catch the tiniest fish possible.Google to find the sport of using micro gear for micro fishing for some helpful tips and gear .One thing I have been researching is the use of light,collapsible minnow traps.Folded they require minimal space for packing,yet can quickly be expanded,baited and in the water faster than other methods.It would be very handy also for those times where gathering a meal quickly,without effort is required.
 
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