April 7, 2015

Keep Shrimp Alive With These Five Simple Steps


Live shrimp is a great choice for those starting out in inshore fishing provided they are alive and kicking. Here's how to keep shrimp alive in five easy steps.


How to Keep Shrimp Alive

Nothing is worse than discovering all your bait died on your way to the honey hole. Here is how to keep shrimp alive to ensure those sea crickets keep kicking.

1. Keep shrimp well aerated

Shrimp breathe oxygen just like me and you. And – just like me and you – will die without it.

That's why you may have noticed that big shrimp die first, because their oxygen requirements are higher than that of smaller sized shrimp.

But it doesn't stop there: once their dead bodies start stinking up the live well, the rest of the shrimp will soon be joining them in the shrimp afterlife.

A good way to keep shrimp alive is by using a strong aerator like a water re-circulator or air stone. Both work wonders to keep water temps down and oxygen levels up.

Sure, you can use oxygen tablets (and they do work) but you probably ought to forego them because it’s one more thing you have to remember to carry in the boat.

2. Keep the water cool

Maintaining a cool water temperature is a great way to keep shrimp alive, and we already covered that keeping water aerated helps do that.

But aeration is not the only way to cool water temps! You should also keep the live well lid closed to keep out the warming rays of the sun.

Adding ice or frozen water bottles helps, just be sure to secure the bottles if you use them. Otherwise they will bounce around when underway and smash the shrimp.

In the heat of the summer pattern, I’d throw a twenty pound bag of ice into a thirty gallon live well to keep water temps down and the shrimp happy.

3. Keep the water clean

As mentioned before, dead shrimp can “stink up” a tank with ammonia if they are allowed to remain and, unfortunately, kill more of your live shrimp.

The solution to keep shrimp alive here is simple: remove the dead shrimp, but don't toss them overboard just yet! 

You can keep those dead shrimp to use as chum or to tip soft plastic lures.

Just make a point of checking for them regularly to keep shrimp alive.

Oh, and there's one more trick: you can leave the livewell lid cracked to help noxious gasses escape.

A neat trick is to use a tennis ball with a hole poked in it. It will hold the lid open but – if someone were to step on it – gives way and not cause the lid to break.

4. Watch your water intakes to keep shrimp alive

In Louisiana we have something special: a confluence of the Mighty Mississippi River and the rich Gulf of Mexico.

Nutrient-rich river water mixes with saltwater to bolster the entire food chain from top to bottom.

This creates a lot of live shrimp for us to use as a bait, but the irony is that it can kill them, too!

That's because it is easy to go from salty to straight river water in a flash.

If you are transporting live shrimp in your boat’s livewell from point to point, then ensure the water intakes are closed, so dirty river water doesn't make it harder to keep shrimp alive.

Otherwise, they are guaranteed to die!

5. Use a dip net

Putting your hands in the live well can introduce harmful chemicals that won't help keep shrimp alive.

shrimp dip net live bait

In order to get around this you should use a dip net, just be sure to get one that floats in case you drop it in the live well (or over the side of the boat).


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Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

  • Steve, I appreciate you commenting!

    I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have much experience fishing in Florida, and what I do have, so far, has been limited to the panhandle, so I’ll do what I can to answer your question, because I won’t even pretend to be an SME on another area.

    Anyways, shrimp do fine without salt, as fo redfish and trout.

    I think what can shock them is a sudden change in salt, water temp or whatever.

    When we fish with live shrimp (I don’t, but used to), they will be used THAT day.

    So we’re not looking at keeping them alive beyond 8 hours, but I have using the tips in this article.

    When I used to guide, keeping bait alive was everything! It could save my overhead over the long run, so keeping those skrimps alive for tomorrow’s trip was helpful.

    But, without knowing more about where you are keeping these shrimp, I really can’t help you.

    A bay in southwest Florida? Which bay?

    What canal?

    If you’re in a backwater canal that gets little to no flow, you may see depleted oxygen levels there.

    As for the predator and mesh, I’d purchase a bait keeper with mesh and try that out.

    I have no idea what’s breaking into your container and would begin experimenting with different material to see how that worked.

    As far as mesh material goes, I assume anything recommended for saltwater use would work for the manufacturer.

    Until then, I use (and catch a lot of fish with) artificial lures.

    No worries about keeping them alive or predators breaking into my tackle box!

    Tight lines, Steven!

  • I have a question that’s only tangentially related but I’m hoping that your post attracts enough people interested in keeping shrimp alive that someone might address this. I used to live on a bay in Southwest Florida and could keep shrimp alive indefinitely hanging them off the dock in a mesh container made for that purpose and available at Ace Hardware among other places (e.g. . The natural water flow would remove shrimp waste and replenish the oxygen. A green slime accumulated on the mesh and I think the shrimp may have eaten what grew on the mesh, or just taken their nutrients from the water. I have since moved to living adjacent to a canal in Southwest Florida, and so far I have not been able to keep shrimp alive here. I think there may be several causes. The water is brackish but has a lot less salt and in the summer is pretty much fresh water. The water is warmer here. Occasionally some creature (not sure which type) will eat through the mesh and eat the shrimp. Has anyone had success keeping shrimp in a Southwest Florida canal? Do you think if I just bought or build some kind of wire mesh container that was harder for predators to bite through it might solve the problem, or will the warmth of the water and / or lack of salt prove fatal anyway? If it might work, what material is recommended to be resilient to predators and yet avoid rust? Post here or reply to [email protected]. Thanks.

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