The One Fishing Hack You Need to Use on Free Fishing Days

Any angler who has thrown a 10 to 12-foot cast net over a dozen times in an attempt to capture enough live bait for a day of fishing understands the value of keeping that bait alive for as long as possible. This is especially true if you are planning to fish for multiple days in a row, such as on free fishing days or weekends. On these occasions, keeping your bait alive overnight will save you the time and energy of having to go back and repeat the bait-gathering process the very next day.

How do you keep your bait alive overnight? Use this handy fishing hack to create your own bait pen! Below are the six steps you need to follow to make your own bait pen.

  1. Pick up the following items from your local home improvement store: one roll of PVC mesh, PVC piping, half a dozen four-way PVC connectors, a package of black zip ties, and two foam pool noodles.

  2. Shape the PVC piping into two circles using the connectors (one for the top of the pen and one for the bottom). You can make the pen either 2x2 or 3x3, depending on the type and amount of bait. For larger baitfish species, such as threadfin herring, it's best to use 3x3. Connect two straight pieces of pipe to two opposite sides for added support.

  3. Route the PVC mesh inside of the pipes if possible, so that the pipe doesn't interfere with the baits ability to swim around the edges of the pen. Use the black zip ties to fasten the mesh all around the piping. For the top, you will want to connect the mesh to both the circular lid PVC pipes and the cylinder portion at only one end, creating a hinge so that you can open and close the top of the pen.

  4. Wrap the pool noodles around the PVC at the top of the pen so that the bait pen is buoyant when placed into the water.

  5. Use a rope to attach the bait pen to the dock and place it into the water.


  6. Scoop your bait into the pen using a net.


Small Bait Pen

Whether it's your state's free fishing days that you want to take full advantage of, or any other consecutive fishing opportunities you have, making your own bait pen will be a huge time-saver. Just be sure to check your local fishing regulations for to determine which types of bait species you are allowed to take by cast net.

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.