Bait Management, Handling & Care Guide

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The Bait House

Water Quality

Key Points

  • NEVER use unpurified tap water as it contains chloramine which WILL kill fish.
  • Always let tap water sit out at least 24 hours before using.
  • Regularly clean your tank with fish safe products.


Key Points

  • You can only put so much oxygen in an amount of water.
  • Match your tank size and amount of water to your amount of bait.
  • See water chart here.
  • Water surface ripples = oxygenation of water.
  • Make sure all areas of tank have movement of water to avoid dead zones.


Key Points

  • Temperatures above 65°F can kill fish very quickly.
  • Do not use ice cubes to cool water. Rapid temperature changes significantly harm fish.
  • Frozen water bottles, or ice packs placed outside the tank work to gradually lower the temperature.
Water TemperaturePounds of FishGallons of Water
55º Fahrenheit515
65º Fahrenheit520
75º Fahrenheit530
85º Fahrenheit550
Problem Appearance Cause Proper Action Notes
Acidic Water
(Low pH)
Water may appear yellowish. Baitfish may dart and at surface. Acidic water supply, decaying fish waste or food. Bring pH up to 7.0 (neutral) with pH-RAISE. To help maintain a more constant pH, change 20-30% of water in tank on a daily basis, siphoning from the bottom of the tank.
Adding New Water Baitfish are distressed. Chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals or ammonia in water supply. Treat water with proper SURE-LIFE water conditioner, such as BETTER-BAIT or FINER-SHINER. All of our water conditioners remove chlorine, heavy metals, and harmful gases instantly.
Ammonia Dead fish’s gills are brown instead of red. Water may be cloudy. Infrequent water changes, decaying food, and or chloramines in water supply. Perform daily partial water changes of 20-30%. Use NO-MMONIA to remove chloramines. Monitor your pH, as ammonia is more toxic at a high pH. Use NO-PIKE or pH-DROP to help lower pH.
Basic Water
(High pH)
Baitfish pike at surface, and white water marks visible around tank. Hard water supply. Use NO-PIKE or pH DROP. Hard water maintains a high and stable pH where ammonia is more toxic. If possible, soften water with a water softener.
Calming Bait Fish injure selves while being transported. Overcrowding of shipping container. Use TRANQUIL in shipping water. Read instructions on TRANQUIL bottle completely before using. Shipping fish in water which has temperature of 85° F (or higher) is not recommended.
Chloramines In
City Water
Fish die from chloramine toxicity. Gills are brown instead of bright red. Water company uses chloramines instead of chlorine to make water safe for human consumption. Use NO-MMONIA for removing chloramines. Use an ammonia test kit to check for ammonia levers. Always use one of our appropriate water conditioners such as BETTER-BAIT or FINER-SHINER along with NO-MMONIA.
Chlorine In
City Water/Ice
Fish become distressed and die from chlorine burning their gills. Chlorine added to city water to make water safe for human consumption. Use BETTER-BAIT, FINER-SHINER, LCR, SHRIMP-KEEPER, CRAWFISH-SAVER, CHOVY-SAVER, or POGEY-SAVER. All SURE-LIFE water conditioners remove chlorine instantly from city water.
Columaris White cottony growth resembling a fungus, sprouting from fins and body. Bacterial disease caused by Flexobacter (Chondrococcus). Use FUNGUS-AID FUNGUS-AID readily dissolves and is compatible with all SURE-LIFE products.
Corner Gathering (Bait Not Schooling) Baitfish gather in corners of bait tank and do not school. Fish are unaccustomed to city water which lacks tannins and lignins which are common to their home waters. Use NO-PIKE. NO-PIKE helps simulate the natural water where baitfish are raised. Fish begin to school again and losses are reduced.
Crawfish Losses Crawfish become soft and large losses occur. Crawfish are susceptible to chlorine, ammonia and disease causing organisms in bait tank water. Use CRAWFISH-SAVER CRAWFISH-SAVER removes harmful chlorine and ammonia from water and helps reduce fungus and bacteria.
Dingy Water
With Odors
Bait tank water is cloudy and has odors. Tank should be cleaned and partial water changes done on a more frequent basis. Be careful not to overfeed and remove any dead bait often. Perform 20-30% partial water changes on a daily basis. Treat water with one of SURE-LIFE’s appropriate water conditioners. Clean tanks with TLC (Tank & Livewell Cleaner). Use SWEET-WATER BLOCKS in water to keep cloudy water and slime build-up to a minimum.
Dirty Bait Tanks And Livewells Tanks have stains, hard water deposits and slime build-up. Infrequent cleanings of tanks and possible hard water supply. Use TLC (Tank & Livewell Cleaner). TLC (Tank and Livewell Cleaner) may be used straight from the bottle or used as a diluted cleaning solution.
Fish Louse Fish rub against sides of tank trying to remove small skin parasites which may be seen with close observation. Argulus, or more commonly referred to as Fish Louse, which is a blood sucking saucer shaped parasite. Use PARA-GONE. Maintain heavy aeration of the water during the use of PARA-GONE to avoid the clouding of water from decaying parasites.
Foam On
Water Surface
Foamy bubbles on surface of water. Protein breakdown from thrown slime coat, decaying fish and/or uneaten fish food. Use FOAM-OFF. If foam is not removed, fish may suffocate, since 90% of the oxygen transfer in water occurs at the surface of water.
Hardwater Deposits White water marks seen on tanks and equipment. Hardwater deposits are from high content of calcium and magnesium salts in water supply. Clean tanks and equipment with TLC (Tank And Livewell Cleaner). TLC (Tank And Livewell Cleaner) keeps tanks and equipment looking and working like brand new.
Hauling Bait Water may be cloudy and foam may be present. Fish tend to become soft. Tanks may be overcrowded and water may be too warm. Fish may have not been purged prior to hauling. Condition water with an appropriate water conditioner such as BETTER-BAIT or FINER-SHINER. Also use TRANQUIL to help calm bait. Use FOAM-OFF to remove surface foam. BAIT-SHIPPIN’ STICKS may be used to remove organics from water and SHINER-START should be used prior to shipping. Proper care of baitfish prior to and during transport will reduce losses and help ensure that the finest bait is available to customers. Quality bait helps secure more customers and helps maintain customer loyalty.
Heavy Metals
In Water Supply
Fish may be lethargic and losses occur for no apparent reason. Heavy metals such as copper may be present in water. Always use a SURE-LIFE water conditioner depending on the type of bait being held. SURE-LIFE water conditioners instantly chelate out heavy metals. Heavy metals disrupt the immune system of baitfish.
Ick (Ichthyopthirius Multifilius) White knots (1/25″ in size) on eyes, skin and/or fins of fish. Caused by the ciliated parasite, Ichthyopthirius multifilius. Use ICK-OFF. Left untreated, the ick parasite easily reproduces and may infect the entire tank of fish.
Receiving New Bait occur after receiving new shipment of baitfish. Lack of partial water changes in holding tank may cause ammonia problems. Have water freshened up with either partial water change or by changing out entire tank prior to receiving new shipment of baitfish. Treat water with an appropriate SURE-LIFE water conditioner along with BTS (Bait Tank Salt), and clean empty tanks with TLC (Tank & Livewell Cleaner) prior to filling with new water. Maintain high water quality with daily 20-30% partial water changes. If possible, avoid adding water from your bait haulers tanks.
Skin Lesions Open sores on body of baitfish. Caused by Aeromonas Salmonicida bacteria. Commonly referred to as Furunculosis. Use FUNGUS-AID. When treating this disease, clean water is very important. Maintain daily 30% partial water changes.
Slime In Bait Tank Bait tank is covered with layer of unsightly slime. Infrequent water changes lead to bacteria, fungus, and mold growing on walls and bottom of tank. Clean tank with TLC (Tank & Livewell Cleaner). Maintain quality water conditions with SWEET-WATER BLOCKS. TLC (Tank & Livewell Cleaner) works on plastic, fiberglass, concrete, glass and metal surfaces.
Soft Bait
(Losing Scales)
Scales found floating in tank. Fish are soft to touch. Fish are stressed and need electrolytes. Check water ammonia level. Add double dose of BETTER-BAIT or FINER-SHINER along with suggested amount of BTS (Bait Tank & Salt). Use NO-PIKE if fish are surface swimming. Check water temperature and make sure it is not too hot. Maintain daily partial water changes.
Surface Swimming Baitfish do not form schools, but instead gather in corners, swim erratically and die off in large quantities. Fish react negatively to city or well water which lacks the organic compounds they are used to in their original ponds where they were raised. Use NO-PIKE along with either BETTER-BAIT or FINER-SHINER. If the fish are very soft also use BTS (Bait Tank Salt). NO-PIKE replaces in city and well water the natural tannins and lignins baitfish must have to remain healthy and in good shape.
Warm Water Fish are very distressed, lose their balance and become soft. Water is hot and low in oxygen content. Cool water temperature with either ice or mechanical means. When cooling water with ice, be sure to use a water conditioner to remove any chlorine which may be in the ice.