Can You Use Freshwater Fish As Bait In Saltwater? 2023

Do you have plans to go fishing? Is it a freshwater or a saltwater fishing trip? Some people go on fishing trips in the ocean and keep asking questions like: can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater?

If you are among such people, then this article is for you. Keep reading.

Can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater? Explained

People have asked whether you can use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater?” The answer is yes because you can use freshwater bait fish to catch saltwater fish. However, it is not recommended due to specific reasons.

One such reason is that freshwater fish is not accustomed to the heightened levels of salt found in saltwater. And this can lead to them being stressed and, ultimately, their death.

More so, the diverse salinity levels can make the freshwater lures swim or float erratically, and they will become an easy target for predators.

On the other hand, saltwater fish are already fully adapted to their saltwater environments. So, they can easily withstand the rigors if they are used as bait fish to catch fish. Also, the live saltwater bait can swim in a way that attracts predators.

In other news, while the answer to “can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater” is a resounding yes, it is undoubtedly not advisable. It is way better for saltwater anglers to use saltwater game fish when they go saltwater fishing.

Understand that it can be pretty harmful to use freshwater fishing lures to attract fish in saltwater instead of using saltwater lures or scented saltwater fishing baits.

The fish will not be capable of acclimatizing to this environment and will most likely die.

More so, no federal, state or international rules or regulations discuss using freshwater fishing lures in saltwater. But panfish may be used for bait if caught on the hook and line.

As for those who want to fish in the ocean, every angler knows that saltwater bait is way better than freshwater bait.

Reasons why saltwater bait is preferable in its environment

Many anglers know it is essential to carry live bait when out in the water, as you cannot tell when the fish will bite. And when they bite, the fresh bait is better than one that has gotten old.

So, for those that will be going saltwater fishing, you must take saltwater-friendly bait or saltwater lures.

This is because the freshwater lures or bait do not count as friendly. And the reason for this includes the following:

Freshwater fish do not taste so good

Anglers will not enjoy using freshwater lures in saltwater environments because they do not taste so good and are too effective to attract saltwater fish.

More so, some freshwater species can successfully catch specific types of saltwater fish like tarpon. However, it is advisable to stick with squid or shrimp as they offer more bang for your buck.

They have to be scaled and gutted

Even though some freshwater fish is good enough to be used as bait to catch fish like squid and shrimp, you will need to scale and gut them before you place them in salt water.

Note that scales are a very good source of calcium, which can help heighten the density of the right bait and make it attractive enough for sea creatures.

And when you gut fish, it is a simple way to take out the parasites that makes your catch sick, even though it can ultimately kill some. In addition, the big or small fish is preserved with gutting as it will not rot quickly.

In conclusion to all of these, the ideal freshwater target species to use as bait fish are:

  • Shiners
  • Goldfish
  • Bluegill

The bluegill is the most popular with saltwater anglers because they are pretty simple to catch if you are using a shrimp rig or the cast net. Meanwhile, goldfish and shiners are great for surf fishing and are used by the two types of anglers.

Although shiners are harder to find, they can be easily caught. This is because the shiners look so much like minnows. And you can find them in rivers or your local creek during spring.

If you are not interested in using artificial freshwater lures or artificial baits, some shops sell live baits for anglers. Most saltwater fish shops also have the same lure for freshwater if you want to catch freshwater bass.

Saltwater fish versus freshwater fish

When asking, “can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater,” you will need to know the difference between both.

Interestingly, there are significant differences in their feeding methods, body type, reproductive status, and even their way of survival. Understand that there are roughly thirty-three thousand species that belong to either group.

And some have adapted to survive in the two environments. Nevertheless, the things you should know are:

The freshwater species

One thing to note is that freshwater fishes live in lakes, ponds, and rivers. They tend to survive here due to the osmoregulation process. This means that they get to absorb the salt to maintain equilibrium.

The fish here can quickly adapt to diverse water parameters compared to their saltwater counterpart. They have a maximum length of sixteen feet and 400kg body weight.

Additionally, they have smaller and short bones though they can survive in tropical and cold waters. They can adapt well in shallow wetlands. It will interest you to note that they have bills and whiskers.

The taste of freshwater fish is milder than that of its counterpart. This is because these fishes have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. As a result, they also have more calcium content.

The examples of freshwater fishes you should know about are sturgeon, trout, salmon, pike, catfish, sunfish, and gar.

The saltwater species

As for Saltwater fish, they live in seas and oceans. More so, osmosis helps them maintain their equilibrium, which they get to lose body fluids. Interestingly, the saltwater fish has a bright and colorful body.

Their maximum body length is twelve feet, and they have a 21500 kg body weight. The bones of this fish are bigger when compared with that of freshwater fishes. These can survive in coral reefs, the deep sea, and tropical waters, including cold ones.

The saltwater fish has pretty strong vomerine and palatine with pharyngeal teeth. In addition, they have additional maxillary and premaxillary teeth, which they use in grinning and crushing.

The stomach they have are saclike and easily adapts to their feeding behaviors. The taste of the saltwater fish is salty.

You should know about saltwater fishes like Bluefish, swordfish, marlin, Tuna, Shark, Bass, Cod, snapper, and eels.

Now that you know the difference between both, it must be noted that freshwater and saltwater fishing is an old practice with origins dating back forty thousand years.

It is a recreational hobby that has been split into saltwater and freshwater. While this recreational hobby or sport has not changed much, they tend to require fishing gear, tackle boxes, and bait.

Understand that the specific things needed tend to vary greatly as rivers and lakes differ slightly. When you want to go out fishing, the major differences to look out for are:

The species

A huge difference between the two is the shape and size. As stated above, saltwater fishes are larger and have stranger looks than their freshwater counterparts. Therefore, when fishing on a lake, you may be lucky to fish a three-letter steelhead.

This steelhead can weigh up to sixteen pounds; meanwhile, when you go offshore fishing, you can catch a blue marlin that weighs 1900 pounds and is as long as fourteen feet.

The contrast in both makes the difference between how the fishing lures are used to catch them. The saltwater fish is riskier due to their poisonous spines, lethal toxins, and sharp teeth.

The fishing gear

When saltwater fishing, the durability of their gear is greater and can hold up to the fight a blue marlin weighing 1900 pounds can give. For this reason, reels and rods for saltwater fishing are bigger and made from fiberglass.

The baits and hooks

While you can choose to use natural live bait in freshwater and saltwater fishing, it is more common when you are out offshore fishing.

The saltwater anglers make use of clams, shrimp, and crayfish. At the same time, freshwater anglers use soft plastics or artificial lures that resemble worms or small fish.

The boats

While freshwater will not eat away at your motor, tackle box, boat, and other equipment, exposure to saltwater will demand continuous repairs, parts renewal due to corrosion, and replacements.

Many anglers have their preference, and you can test both before your next fishing trip.

Saltwater lures that can be used for freshwater fishing

For those who love saltwater fishing for freshwater and saltwater fish, it is only reasonable to have the fishing lures around. More so, it must be noted that the split rings and hooks on saltwater lures are more durable than those on freshwater lures.

Some of the saltwater lures you can use as bait when fishing in freshwater are:

The artificial shrimp

The soft plastic artificial shrimp looks like a crawfish. You can use these artificial shrimp lures in copper, red or pink colors.

Work them like you would do freshwater soft plastic lures, and you will be surprised that you will catch largemouth bass.

The Gold spoon

The red drum or redfish, mackerel, or snook are some saltwater fishes that the gold spoon can catch. They are among the best bait that is easy to use and can be used in freshwater.

Using a ¼ ounce or 1/8-ounce weedless gold spoon is advisable as you fish in rivers for sea bass, smallmouth bass, or even largemouth bass.

The paddle tail’s soft plastic

As the most versatile saltwater lures, it can attract those predator fishes that eat small baitfish. They have a soft tail that produces effective motion and allows them to get strikes. It can cover water as shallow as ten inches when rigging on a jig head.

The Power Prawn

Not many saltwater game fish will refuse to eat shrimp, and the best artificial shrimp is the power prawn. It can be used in any situation and even to jig in deep waters. It comes in diverse colors though the best is the white shrimp.

Freshwater lures that are used on saltwater

If you want to know can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater you will need to know what freshwater lures you can use on saltwater. Here are some of them:

Can You Use Freshwater Fish As Bait In Saltwater _ Freshwater Lures On Saltwater
Can You Use Freshwater Fish As Bait In Saltwater _ Freshwater Lures On Saltwater

The fishing jigs

They are primarily available in a tackle box. Note that they are pretty standard and can be used for saltwater fishing. They come with metal heads and a hook covered by soft plastic, rubber, feathers, or artificial hair.

When fishing with the jig in saltwater, drop this lure in the water and get it cranked up. The small fish caught here will think it is alive and try tasting it on your hook.

The soft plastic lure

The soft plastic lures come in various sizes, shapes, and colors to catch smaller fish species. They are the best bait to lure saltwater fish, and anglers attach soft plastic insects or minnows to the jig while saltwater fishing.

If the day is hot, use bright-colored soft plastic and when it is dark, use dark-colored lures. You can use the soft crawfish fishing lures as they look like shrimp on the hook and will attract the redfish and ladyfish.

Gold and silver spoon

The gold or silver spoons are curved pieces of metal shaped like spoons with a tiny hook welded, plus a weed guard.

This lure is used in catching walleye and even redfish. Some anglers use gold spoons as the ideal lure for redfish, and silver spoons are used for trout.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Which type of bait should I use to fish in saltwater?

If you wish to use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater, then you have a select number of bait to use. According to our research, we have found that Shiners, Goldfish, and Bluegill are the ideal freshwater baits. 

Does salt water hurt freshwater fish?

It would be best if you remembered that salt isn’t ideal for freshwater fish because saltwater contains TOO much salt. Even though you can use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater, it isn’t recommended. So to answer your question, saltwater does hurt freshwater fish.

Do saltwater and freshwater mix?

Freshwater and saltwater can mix, but it will change the salinity of the water; thus, buoyancy and other factors will also change. This can cause problems for certain fish species because they require certain conditions to thrive.

Are there fishes that can go from saltwater to freshwater?

A certain group of fishes that fall under the euryhaline species can handle a wide range of salinity during certain phases. These fishes, such as salmon, eels, red drum, striped bass, and flounder, can go from saltwater to freshwater.


If you ask, “can you use freshwater fish as bait in saltwater?” you know that the answer is yes. But while reading this article, you will find out why it is not recommended when saltwater fishing. There is similarity between how long can fish go without food and going from freshwater to saltwater or vice versa.

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