Bait Tank

Tiny's $121 Bait Tank for Bank Fishermen or Daily Storage

Updated June 2007, waterfall aeration turns out that it's not all that great to keep shad alive real well ... this type aerator and bubble aerators are much better for keeping shad alive and frisky along with the proper amount of salt in the water. The ice chest is still a good option using the updated aerator as well as keeping large fish alive and well during transport.

This setup is really cool and not that expensive ... I went to Academy and bought a 150 quart ice chest for a bait tank and then asked the man at the sporting counter where their dip nets were. he took me back on an isle that had the perfect bait dip net for this setup and then I went down a ways and found an aerator setup designed for ice chests so I got that too. Got home and it took me about 10 minutes to put it together and went and got some rock salt and put 1 cup in it for about 2/3rds capacity of the tank .... drove to Tulsa and got shad and we got about 75 or 80 large shad ... about 6 to 8 inches ... some 10 and a few smaller shad ... bout 10 or so and drove back to keystone dam ... fished all day that day and landed about 130 lbs of blues releasing all the larger ones and kept about 7 small ones from 6 to 2 lbs. That night there was still about 20 shad left in the tank and I gave them to Bill and Charlie and they looked more lively than when we first netted them. Only problem I had was with the shad scales pluggin up the aerator pipe but I'm gonna make a screen for it and that should fix that. It also made a dandy deal to tote my fish back home once I was done fishing ... got up this morning and cleaned fish and they was alive and well and made it easy to clean them since the drive home hadn't dried their skin out.

This is a standard storage box like you get at walmart ... I drilled a whole in each end for the aerator tube to mount through and it's got a snap top lid that goes on. I cut several 1/4"x2" slits in the bottom of this so that the water could pass through. 

This is a central heat and air foam filter purchased at walmart ... the filter is the kind that you put in the door of the unit and it filters the air so that the vents don't get plugged up. this works great to filter the scales and other stuff. Keeps the water super clean.

These shad have been in here for two days now and the water clarity is really good ... the shad still have most all their scales and the defecation is cleaned from the tank as well as the other debris. The white stuff floating on top is Styrofoam that got in there when I cut the top for the filter box. ShadKeeper is what made the water green colored and it works a lot better than the rock salt ... with rock salt the shad stayed alive for a long time but would foam up real bad and the shad lost all their scales and slime ... with the shadkeeper they don't do that.

There's another use for this tank as well ... when the fishing's done and the bait used up it makes a great live well to keep your fish alive on the trip home instead of just leaving them lay in the back of your truck ... they stay alive until the next morning if you decided to wait to clean your catch ... keeps the fish clean and also keeps their skin from drying out making the cleaning a lot easier.

The bait tank aerator would run down both batteries when I hooked them together to charge so I went to the auto parts shop and got a continuous use solenoid, the kind they use on golf carts, and rigged it up so that when I turned the key off it'd break the connection between the batteries ... this way it'll only be connected to the main battery when the pickup is running or key is turned on. Charges the bait tank battery faster also because the main battery is always fully charged.

Update: December 9, 2006 - Email Reply

When the water gets hot it loses a lot of it's ability to aerate properly or won't hold oxygen as well as cooler water. 102 water temp will kill most anything unless you have, and need better aeration in hotter water than just the waterfall type of system. A bubble aerator will work a lot better on bluegill and shad both and the type of tank you should use is probably a 30 gallon plastic barrel with bubble aeration. If the waterfall type of tank system is not dropping the water a long ways like over 8 inches then it's not going to aerate the water ... you need to step up the aeration if you're not going to try to keep the water cooler.

Bubble aerators work a lot better. I switched to a 30 gallon plastic barrel and I've still got the 150 quart ice chest handy in case I need extra live well room or when I'm not taking out clients. If I fish in tournaments next year I'm going to put the big ice chest in there with the bubble aerator for livewell space for the fish I catch to keep them healthy during the day. I've went to the 30 gallon plastic barrel as it aerates a lot better as it's a longer rise to the surface ... my bubble aerator is one of those dual outlet aerators that you get at Academy and I've got one stone in my 20 gallon built-in livewell in my boat and the other hose went to the 30 gallon barrel which kept shad alive quite a bit better than the ice chest due to better oxygenation.

The bubble aerator worked good in the ice chest also and I removed the bilge pump. If you want to keep shad alive you absolutely have to keep the water temp down to below 80 or else they'll die off pretty fast but the barrel I have will hold them a lot better in hot water than the ice chest would as I was using it in 90 degree weather with really great results ... keeping shad alive in the tank requires 1.3 cups of salt per 10 gallon of water to help them deal with the stress hormones like cortasol which causes shad to bleed ... their gill, nose and eyes bloody up and then they die without the salt. The water has to be brackish level or higher. That's a different area though ... you are trying to keep bluegill alive and they're really easy to keep alive for over 24 hours in hot water with a bubble aerator and just a 5 gallon bucket ... I kept about 40 bluegill alive in my ice chest this summer for over 2 months but I had my air compressor rigged up to put 2 to 3 lbs pressure on the hose and bubble stone and it was really cranking the air in the tank ... I'd change the water or freshen the water every 3 to 4 days and that's all it took. I use well water in my tanks and it works really well. If you use tap water you have to de-chlorinate it and catfish connection sells a product called better bait or something like that that de-chlorinates the water and puts electrolytes in the water so that the fish will stay healthier ... I'm going to try some of that this spring. I also just purchased a commercially built bait tank as well ... it's an insulated tank with filter and keepalive aerator pump which really oxygenates the water real well ... I was getting a lot of that salt water splashing all over my reels so I needed a better tank with a latch on the lid to keep the water in the tank but those aerator pumps are the real deal ... they'll keep any bluegill alive with the oxygen turned all the way up on them ... if you used one on an ice chest you'd need to face the outlet towards the wall of the tank to keep the fish from getting stressed out because they're not a swimming fish ... shad and stuff like that swim all the time but bluegill like to stay stationary so you'd want as little flow as possible ... maybe a partition put in would work better where the pump is drawing from the side the fish are on and the outlet pumping into the other chamber ... a lot of tanks are set up like that too. A good system to keep bluegill long-term would be to put in an activated charcoal system as well. This is just different things to keep in mind but there's nothing worse than working your butt off to catch 70 to 100 bluegill for the next day and then going out and finding them all dead. During the heat of the summer you have to keep tending them as well ... can't just leave them for four or five days without freshening up the water ... the best thing to do is to freshen it up at least every other day. I sometimes did that by just turning the water hose on at a trickle and laying it over into the tank so fresh water would go in there over 6 to 8 hours and it'd be aerating the water that was coming in ... if you change it too fast the fish would suffocate. I also would put the water in another container like my 30 gallon barrel and aerate it really good for 30 minutes or so them pull the plug off the ice chest and drain almost all the water out and then put my pump and hose over into the 30 gallon tank and hook it up to my battery on the boat and drain the fresh aerated water out into the ice chest. You just got to keep on top of it and make sure you don't get a lot of ammonia build-up ... that's the reason to change the water regularly ... also on bluegill if you catch them and put them directly into the icechest you should change the water about two hours after you get back home or 3 hours as they'll purge a lot of ammonia building agents into the water right after they're caught.