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livewell2.gif (40518 bytes)Build a Live
Bait Well on a Budget

By Mike Christy

This is a simple design for a live bait well which circulates and aerates water. I use this design, and depending on the size of the barrel, it keeps 8 to 10 baits alive and kicking. The barrel is manually filled with a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Every 15 minutes I discharge an amount of water and replace it with a fresh bucket. This keeps the toxins from building up too high.

The discharge feature is a simple in-line garden hose value. When switched off, the water circulates in the barrel, when switched on, the water discharges out the hose and over the transom of the boat.

Parts List Top  

    livewell1.gif (34045 bytes)Live Well Parts List

  1. 30-40 Gallon Barrel (not trash can)
  2. 6' 3/4" plastic hose
  3. 360 GPH Rule bilge pump
  4. 90 degree 3/4" elbow
  5. In-line garden hose valve
  6. 16" 3/4" PVC pipe
  7. Hose clamps
  8. Battery clips (red/black)
  9. 4 PVC hold down brackets

Construction Top  


  1. Mount pump in bottom of barrel with stainless screws.
  2. Either secure wires to side of barrel and run out the top or (recommended) drill hole near pump and feed wires thru hole. Seal with goop.
  3. Drill 8 3/8" holes along one side of a 16" length of PVC pipe. These holes circulate the water back into the barrel.
  4. Secure PVC pipe to inside of barrel with PVC hold down brackets. livewell.gif (11456 bytes)
  5. Measure and cut length of 3/4" tubing then attach to pump and one end of PVC pipe (hose clamps optional)
  6. Drill 1" hole near top of barrel adjacent to other end of PVC pipe. This is for the discharge hose.
  7. Build the following assembly: short hose to 90 degree elbow to short hose to inline garden hose valve to main discharge hose.
  8. The previous assembly is attached to the one end of the PVC pipe then fed out the 1" hole in the top of the barrel.
  9. Solder pump wires to black and red battery clamps, be sure to observe correct polarity!
  10. Dab any screw threads showing with goop. This is help you (and the bait) not to get cut or scratched by them.
  11. Fill with water and test her out!

Catching Bait


    Catching Live Bait Tips

  • The two predominant bait fish in seacoast New Hampshire are mackerel and pollock. You CAN possess a maximum of 6 pollock less than 19 inches in Maine, so be careful knowing where those invisible state lines are located.
  • For picking up mackerel you will need mackerel jigs or christmas tree rigs and a chum bag, although I personally just pitch chum over the side a little at a time. Two popular spots for mackerel are the Red Buoy "2KR" just outside the mouth of the harbor and Red Nun "2" just off the West Sister. Drift with the chum bag over the side and jig until a school of mackerel stops by. You'll have a live well full of bait in no time.
  • I haven't fished them all but it appears to me that other good spots outside the harbor should be Murray Rock, Stones Rock, Gunboat Shoal and anywhere around the Isles of Shoals. Just look for a flotilla of jigging fools, that's probably where the bait is located.
  • Sometimes pollock are reluctant to hit a jig, so a #8 hook with split shot and a small piece of chum will get them to cooperate. This technique requires that you watch the bait drift down until a pollock sucks it in. You must set the hook immediately otherwise they will swallow the hook. Bend the barb down to make removing the hook easy. Polarized glasses are a must! When mackerel are scarce, look for 15 to 20 feet of water with grassy bottom, chances are there may be pollock hiding down there.
  • Using light freshwater tackle makes catching bait as much fun as the stripers!
  • Tip of the Day: Sometimes it's a lesson in futility just catching live bait, so keep those swimmers and poppers readily available!
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