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How to Keep Shrimp Alive Longer [5 Tips and Bonus]

Big shrimp for fishing in Florida. Shrimp make great bait for many kinds of Florida saltwater fish.
Keep your shrimp alive longer and catch more fish. Dead shrimp are good. Live shrimp are SO much better.

These 5 tips for keeping shrimp alive longer will catch you more fish. You’re probably paying for shrimp like the rest of us. Why? They’re such good bait for so many different species. Live or dead, shrimp are great bait, there’s no doubt about it. However, live shrimp are better bait because they can avoid the pinfish and other bait-stealers who will strip a hook bare in a second if the shrimp is dead or nearly dead.

How to Keep Shrimp Alive Longer

Tip #1 – Give Shrimp Some Space!

A bucket full of shrimp are going to die in a matter of minutes because they are not getting enough oxygen, and the water is filling up with waste that kills the fish. Two dozen shrimp per big bucket (5-gallon) is all I ever put together. Three is pushing it, but it’s probably manageable for a few hours.

Tip #2 – Put ’em On Ice!

Sort of. The night before you go fishing, put a couple of bottles of water in the freezer about 3/4’s full and drop them in your shrimp bucket when you buy the shrimp at the bait shop. Do it this way, and don’t spoon in ice-chunks at random throughout the morning or it will dilute the water and kill the fish. Ice in a bottle keeps the water cooler and keeps your shrimp alive a bit longer. For best results keep a bunch of small ice-bottles in a cooler ready to drop into your shrimp buckets to cool them down.

Tip #3 – Forget about Aeration Machines

Free-flow shrimp buckets allow ocean water to constantly refresh your shrimp and keep them lively for fishing.
Shrimp buckets like this with holes in the side that you submerge in the ocean as you fish work really well. Highly recommended.

Use flow-through shrimp buckets that you can drop into the ocean as soon as possible for the best experience. But, also use Tip #1 to keep the water a little cooler because your shrimp bucket will be on top of the water and warmer than where the shrimp would naturally be going if they had the choice. The sun will also hit the top of the bucket and heat it up. Use the big 5-gallon shrimp buckets with holes on top, or ideally with holes all over the sides as well. Drop them into a bigger bucket full of salt water when you are transporting them to your fishing spot.

Aeration machines are almost always inadequate for long-term use. Of course use one on the way from the bait shop to the ocean, but then as soon as possible, drop the flow-through shrimp bucket into the water to preserve your shrimp and keep them feisty for as long as possible.

Tip #4 – Minimize the Time between Bait Shop and Ocean

As much as possible, shorten the time you are transporting the shrimp from the bait shop to the ocean for fishing. Don’t buy your shrimp at the nearest bait shop to your home, buy shrimp at the nearest bait shop to the place you will actually be fishing.

Tip #5 – Don’t Mix Bait Fish with Your Shrimp!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people drop pinfish or other bait fish into their shrimp buckets. Not only will the pinfish eat some of the shrimp, and use up oxygen in the water quicker, but they’ll also stress the hell out of the shrimp and cause them to die much more quickly than with only shrimp in the bucket.

Bonus Tip! Keep Your Shrimp Buckets Clean!

When you wash out your shrimp bucket, don’t use industrial strength cleaners. I never used anything but water from the garden hose and a scrubber like you’d use for dishes. I never used soap. Soap, bleach, and other cleaners can leave residue in the buckets that can cause shrimp to die quickly. Shrimp are very sensitive to any sort of chemicals, so don’t use soap or cleanser of any kind! Just scrub and rinse thoroughly.

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