While we continue in a period of doldrums for fishing, I want to address an issue that I feel, along with casting skills, is among the top reasons newcomers to coastal fishing have difficulty catching game fish — hooking live bait.

I have hosted literally hundreds of guests to fishing trips during the years and frequently noticed that while they thought they knew how to hook live shrimp and other live bait, they made some fatal mistakes — fatal for the bait.

The purpose in using live bait is to keep it alive and swimming to entice a speckled trout, red, flounder or other fish to take a bite. If the bait is dead, about the only fish it will attract are pan fish and scavengers such as hardheads.

The hook is probably the most important part of the process, and properly attaching it to the bait likewise is of prime importance.

The hook should be only large enough to keep the bait on and allow freedom to swim naturally. Live shrimp are probably the hardest with which to deal. A small hook, whether a size 6, 8 or 10 treble hook, works best. Small circle and J-hooks also work.

For finfish, larger hooks are used; however, the key is to use the smallest hook that keeps the fish alive and swimming naturally.

The illustration shown pinpoints the correct spots to hook live bait. For shrimp, it is imperative to not go back beyond the horn. Hooking in the small area under the horn allows the shrimp to move freely and remain alive.

Hopefully, this will help add fish to your stringer.

Capt. Joe Kent is a columnist for The Daily News. Report your catch to reel.report@galvnews.com or call 409-683-5273.

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