Live shad or dead shad, it's your choice

Discussion in 'Shad Talk' started by Telly, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. Telly

    Telly Guest

    Here’s how I see it fellows…

    Keeping shad alive in the summer is a seasonal problem, same old problem every summer and same old recommendations to keep them alive that doesn’t work and never has worked.

    The cost of catching and keeping shad is staggering in the summer, time, fuel, rest and fleeting success. Many hours over a fishing season is wasted getting up before daylight and throwing that net every day not counting the hours/days of sleep lost because it dies fast and you got to stop fishing and go catch another batch of shad if you can find them again, but dead bait isn’t to bad if that’s what you want to fish with.

    The big question is: Do you want to fish with dead shad or live healthy shad?

    Have you ever added up how many hours you waste throwing that net every season, or 2 seasons, 3 seasons, or even the rest of your life and you still end up with dead bait in the summer?

    Every summer I hear and see this same problem, “shad are delicate baits, you can’t keep them alive regardless of what you do, they die within minutes after netting, shad get the red-nose, their scales flake off, yada, yada, yada.” We all know the routine, been there and tried that.

    I hear and see the same old recommendations that engenders “hope”… hope doesn’t cut it and hope does not work. The bait still gets red-nose, pipes, then gets lethargic and dies within minutes after catching it and putting it into Super Bob’s [brand] Bait Tank with the All-Pro [brand ] aerator.

    Every summer we hear and see the SOS, so let’s examine this a little more.

    What really causes this high seasonal shad kills in our death-tanks every summer and can this problem ever be corrected enough to keep shad alive and all day in a bait tank?

    Bait tank sellers sell bait tanks. Over the years salesmen and fishing article writers have convinced shad fishermen that the problem is the brand of bait tank and the solution is buy this brand or that brand of tank. They claim round tanks are the answer because shad are stupid little fish that get trapped in the corners of rectangle or square corner tanks and suffocate. Even though shad may have small primitive brains, they certainly are not ignorant little fish and they do thrive in 90-95 degree lake water every day with no problems. Shad avoid poor water quality if the can and have no choice when caught and end up in a fisherman’s bait tank. The point is to baffle fishermen with BS and sell more bait tanks.

    Other salesmen sell and promote the use of ice and livewell A/C units and say chill the livewell water. When you net them in 86 degree water, chill that bait tank water to 65 degrees, they will live a few minutes longer. They never mention how quickly nice chilled shad die when hooked up and tossed back into that hot 86 degree water, (temperature shock).

    When you chill lake water from 86 degrees down to 76 degrees the oxygen concentration increases 8/10 of 1 part per million. Add slat or bait saver chemicals and it the chill may only increase the oxygen concentration 5/10 of 1 part per million. Salted water (added bait saver chemicals) holds even less O2 than fresh non salted water, more salt = less dissolved oxygen. Buy more ice or an A/C unit.

    Bait saver chemical salesmen sell expensive colored bait saver chemicals and have convinced many fishermen that their expensive brand of bait saver chemicals are the answer. When the blue water is flushed out, add more blue chemicals, in other words, buy more green chemicals.

    Bait pump salesmen sell water pumps and claim fish waste, ammonia, CO2, acid water is the problem that kills shad so quickly and you need a high flow of water pumped through the bait tank to flush out toxic waste in the water. Bigger higher volume bait pumps = longer survival time and better shad health. The pump must be big, big enough to totally exchange the bait tank water every 30 seconds, that more flush is better. Two pumps are better than 1 pump. Buy more pumps.

    The bait tank filter salesman sell particle filters that filter out excessive scale, slime and fish dunk – the big chunks of stuff in the water. They don’t filter out the deadly stuff you can’t see like ammonia, CO2, nitrites or acid in the water. Buy better particle filters, may a double filter. Buy more filters.

    The problem and killer is low oxygen concentrations. Correct this problem and you can keep shad alive and healthy every summer when the water gets hot. Don’t correct the low oxygen problem in the bait tank and live with dead shad…

    Oxygen is the limiting factor in any bait tank, but air is free right? Add up all the cost of bait tanks, water pumps, aerators, batteries, ice, chemicals, dead bait, etc. and then you find out that that air is not as free as you might think and that more air does not mean enough there’s going to be enough oxygen to survive.

    Aerators pump air, not oxygen

    Bait pumps pump water, not oxygen

    A fish hatchery manager told me that air is the reason shad die in bait tanks in the summer. He’s an expert transporting live, healthy fish.

    Knowledge and the application of that new knowledge and new technology will convert any “bait-box” from a dead-well to a live-well that really works.
  2. Big Sam

    Big Sam Well-Known Member

    Booneville AR
    Welcome to the Hood!!!:big_smile:

  3. CatHunter24

    CatHunter24 New Member

    Dayton, Ohio
    thanks for the info, although i have seen two rounded homemade bait tanks and filtration systems that keep shad alive no problem in the summer heat. I think it all is based on the filtration and aeration ( i agree pure oxygen would be much better and saturate level to a higher percentage). Most of these pre-made and commercially marketed filtration systems are not really designed for shad specifically (they are more delicate as you said that most fish) and they also usually are not big enough....with filtration overkill is necessary unless you are going to spend all your time cleaning scales and debris and junk out of you filters. Thanks for the good post though. :big_smile:
  4. Mickey

    Mickey New Member

    Telly Welcome to the BOC, from So. Illinois. Thanks for sharing your insight and related article.:0a22::0a25::0a25:
  5. Dirtdobber

    Dirtdobber Guest Staff Member

    Vian Okla
    Welcome to the BOC
  6. Netmanjack

    Netmanjack New Member

    Welcome to the BOC
    My choice is fresh dead on ice. :wink:
  7. CatsNstripers

    CatsNstripers New Member

    Smith Mountain
    Thats a good article, i enjoyed reading it. You covered alot of good topics about keeping bait. But I have to disagree with you. I'm unsure of your method in keeping bait alive. But I'll speak for myself. I relativily seldom have problems with bait die'ing in the summer months. You just have to attend to the maintnence more often than you would have to in the cooler months.

    Yes it takes time away from fishing, and it takes time to catch bait. No i dont know how many min's, hours, days it takes away in my life to catch bait or change water. But I figured if I had time to sit around and add all that up, I could have been out catching bait......

    In the summer requires more frequent water changes. Yes you have to add more salt or bait chemicals. Clean your filters more often. Yes that cost money. But thats the names of the game, thats how you play this hobbie. Thats how Guides live by, day by day... If you want live bait, thats what you have to do.... Kinda like drag racing. After each pass you have to tune, adjust and dump in another splash of Cam2.

    With the correct measures you can keep bait alive all day or all night or both. I run a 50 gallon creek bank bait tank and also used a 30 gallon Super II. Even ran homemade tanks in the summer with good success..

    again good post.....
  8. GaryF

    GaryF New Member

    O.P., KS
    Welcome, great first post!

    I don't want to come across as argumentative, but a couple of points and a question..

    You assert:
    "Salted water (added bait saver chemicals) holds even less O2 than fresh non salted water, more salt = less dissolved oxygen" and
    "The problem and killer is low oxygen concentrations. Correct this problem and you can keep shad alive and healthy every summer when the water gets hot."

    My experience with a home made bait tank is that without salt, the shad red nose and die. It's a very repeatable result. If oxygen is THE key to keeping shad alive, why does something that reduces oxygen also reduce mortality?
  9. bluejay

    bluejay Well-Known Member

    Napoleon, Mo.
    Good post Telly. Welcome to the BOC.
  10. buckethead

    buckethead New Member


    Welcome to the B.O.C. and a very good post !!!!!

    I have a bigger problem, it is catching them first !!LOL, you are right about the number of hours spent in the ""Pursuit""of the wayward Shad !!
    only to have him ((Croak )) and belly up in the live well.


  11. kitsinni

    kitsinni New Member

    I have to agree on this one.
  12. bnewsom71

    bnewsom71 New Member

    I agree also. I don't want to waste my time or money keeping something alive that seems to work as good dead as they do alive. (For me)
  13. Catmanblues

    Catmanblues New Member

    S.E Ohio
    Welcome to the BOC Telly an thanks for the informative information.
  14. Telly

    Telly Guest

    Thank you kindly fellows for your warm generous welcome to the forum. I appreciate that welcome.

    Thanks for the compliment, response and questions. I don’t take your post as coming across as argumentative in any way. We all have the same goal and that’s keeping shad in top notch fishing condition as long as possible in the summer the best we can. The goal is illusive at times.

    Great question: “If oxygen is THE key to keeping shad alive, why does something that reduces oxygen also reduce mortality?” Adam Johnson, a fishery biologist, fishing enthusiast and outdoors’ writer explains the salt and oxygen relationship quiet well in this piece:

    The greater the solute concentration in water (the solvent), the less dissolved oxygen that same water will hold at a constant temperature. Salt, bait saver chemicals, ocean and bay waters containing salts affect dissolved oxygen concentrations.

    Example: Salty ocean water at 77 degrees, salinity (35 ppt salt) will hold approximately 42% less dissolved oxygen than 77 degree fresh water. The salt concentration (solute/solvent relationship) affects the dissolved oxygen saturation inversely at that constant temperature.

    Adding salt or salt based products adjust the O2 saturation downward to something between 8.5 ppm and 4.93 ppm respectively, depending on how much salt you add to the water.

    With no fish or bait in the livewell consuming any oxygen:
    77 degree freshwater achieves 100% saturation with 8.5 ppm dissolved oxygen
    77 degree ocean salt water achieves only 4.93 ppm dissolved oxygen.

    Mucus protects the animal from infections; it’s as important to fish as phlegm is to clean human lungs. With fish, an auto-response to stress is an abundant mucus production which can be extreme and is somewhat proportional to the degree of the collective stressors.

    Low dissolved oxygen saturation is the most serious common stressor occurring more often in summer transports in livewells. Low to no oxygen is the quickest acting, most deadly stressor we face when transporting live fish (shad, stripers, bass, redfish…). It’s a fast, deadly water quality issue in livewells and requires immediate action to reverse this condition.

    Fish avoid low oxygen levels (poor water quality) in normal lake environments and in ocean environments if possible. For example: low to no oxygen levels negatively affect hundreds of square miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. This area is called a “dead zone.” Mountain climbers also inter similar hypoxic “dead zones” at high altitudes. You know you’re in the “zone” or very close to it when you see hundreds of small empty oxygen cylinders scattered at base camps.

    More sustained stress makes more mucus. As more mucus is excreted from the skin in stressful times the thicker the mucus layer becomes between the scales and skin pushing the scale further and further away from the skin. The scale is literally pushed away from the skin by the mucus flood and scales are easily dislodged, break off easily and lost. Reducing stressors reduces mucus production and keeps the scale closer to the skin which is healthy more normal.

    Areas on the skin where scales are loss then become more susceptible to infection and more injury.


    Thank you for your kind words and offering your comments. You’re right, if the measures are correct and safe livewell water quality is sustained, shad survival rates and bait quality improve dramatically… good job managing water quality/stocking density ratios, great points.

    I see you’re very careful about not overstocking your livewells with shad, adding the correct amount of salt reducing the work of osmoregulation, filtering out particulates in the water and exchanging water periodically to reduce concentrations of toxic waste.

    My opinions and experience offer a different approach to managing livewell water quality in overstocked livewells while at the same time managing summer heat stressors, if in fact, dying shad is an issue at all. I’ve found that flat-head cats bite live baitfish better than dead cut bait; on the other hand, I’ve seen that high-fin blues, channel and mud cats are less particular about live bait offerings.

    Years ago I was really impressed when I saw a bait dealer fill a ½ gallon plastic bag half full of fish and a little water; he squeezed the air out of the bag and then filled the remainder of that bag of fish and water with pure compressed welding oxygen. Then he twisted the opening of the bag several times and secured the twist tightly with a rubber-band trapping the pure oxygen inside the bag, I paid him and was on my way.

    Fishermen were lined up wanting to buy his bait and I noticed that he was the only bait dealer in the area providing oxygen for the bait he sold like this. Other bait dealers back then were filling the bags’ gas space with air, sometimes, and they had no lines of fishermen wanting to buy their live baitfish.

    I saw all those baitfish thriving and comfortable for several hours in that little bag of water and pure oxygen while driving down the interstate to the lake. When the bag was finally opened and the oxygen escaped things changed for the worse. Serious problems became obvious within 20 minutes in my livewell. Those baits no longer thrived, the water got slimy, foamy, nasty, smelly; I saw scales flaking off skin, vomit, poop, red-noses, red sides and then the bait started piping and dying in short order.

    Water temps in the bag of fish and livewell were equalized before releasing the bait into the livewell, aerator operating perfectly making plenty of air bubbles. Everything looked great for a few minutes.

    Surface foam is caused when gas bubbles pass through a water column that contains mucus. Mucus is protein that increases a bubbles’ surface tension.

    Any gas bubbles rising in the water column are effective ‘protein skimmers’ (big chunk particle filters). The dirty surface foam demonstrated the effectiveness of this type of filtration. Foamy dirty livewell water is a symptom of poor water quality problems and physiological stress going on with the fish in the livewell. It’s important to correctly diagnose and correct the real problem when we see and recognize that these symptoms are present.

    Commercial livewell detergents are often included in some brands of packaged fish and bait saver chemicals. Detergents will reduce the surface tension of protein rich bubbles masking serious (water quality) stress related issues… foam - out of sight and out of mind.

    Packaged coffee creamer effectively reduces gas bubble surface tension; it’s cheap or free at all restaurants, grocery stores and donut shops. The gas bubbles burst and the foam reverts back to a liquid state. Synthetic coffee creamer is not toxic to live fish.

    Keeping shad healthy in the livewell for any length of time can be challenging in harsh summer conditions. Again, thanks for the warm welcome fellows.

  15. recordbreakin1

    recordbreakin1 New Member

  16. recordbreakin1

    recordbreakin1 New Member

    Welcome to the BOC.I use fresh dead shad and don't worry about all the crap of keeping them alive.