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Home > Current News > 2005

News: 2005

Live Bait Market Possible Venue for Commercial Shrimpers, Fishermen
Posted: 6/29/05

BATON ROUGE – Some Louisiana inshore shrimpers and fishermen squeezed by current economic conditions are increasing their profits by marketing some of their catch as live bait to recreational anglers, according to a recent survey by Louisiana Sea Grant.

“With present conditions dictating low profitability, it is inevitable that some fishermen and shrimpers will use their hard-won fishing experience to provide a value-added aspect to their catch – live bait,” said Rex Caffey, associate professor for wetlands and coastal resources at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Louisiana Sea Grant.

The survey found shrimp, croakers and cocahoe minnows to be the most popular live baits with the state’s recreational fishermen. Survey respondents indicated they are willing to pay up to four times the market value of some baits – specifically croakers – in order to guarantee a successful fishing trip. Caffey refers to this as “trip insurance.”

“Maximum prices went as high as $1 per bait for croakers,” said Caffey. “Apparently, these bait fish have a reputation that precedes them in the fishermen’s world.”

Only 4 percent of survey respondents said bait price was a significant limiting factor when it comes to their fishing excursions. “You just got up at 3:39 a.m., invested $200 in supplies and fuel, made excuses all week to get to fish … who cares what the bait cost as long as you don’t have to go home empty-handed,” said Rusty Gaude, Louisiana Sea Grant fisheries agent. “This triggers the idea that at 5 a.m., on the edge of civilization at your bait retailer’s store, the cost of the bait is relatively unimportant compared to its availability.”

Although earmarking part of the commercial catch for live bait can be profitable, shrimpers and fishermen need to put in additional effort to ensure their product remains alive.

“Many seafood harvesters are not accustomed to walking the fine line between their catch being live bait or frozen seafood,” said Caffey. “Not only does the live bait have to make it to the onshore holding facility, endure the transfer from several containers to the final bait well, but the individual baits must appear lively not only to the angler but – ultimately – the angler’s prey.”

Care and holding of live bait was noted as a major concern by survey respondents.

The survey was part of a national Sea Grant initiative to guide research and extension programming for the coastal bait industry in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Previously, no definitive survey of the Louisiana coastal bait industry had been conducted. The 500 survey respondents included individuals from the supply side of the live bait industry, as well as recreational fishermen. Surveys were conducted face-to-face and online.

Seventy-five percent of the anglers surveyed fish in marsh and coastal areas, and most of their fishing activity takes place between the beginning of May and the end of September.

The live bait sector in Louisiana is a $40 million business, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Louisiana Sea Grant continues to support the coastal bait industry with programs and publications geared to helping all aspects of the industry.

Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at Louisiana State University, is part of the National Sea Grant Program, a network of 30 programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands.

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