Bait fish
Bait fish are small fish caught for use as bait
Bait (luring substance)
Bait is any substance used to attract prey, e.g. in a mousetrap.-In Australia:Baiting in Australia refers to specific campaigns to control foxes, wild dogs and dingos by poisoning in areas where they are a problem...

 to attract large predatory fish
Predatory fish
Predatory fish are fish that predate upon other fish or animals. Some predatory fish include perch, muskie , pike, walleye, salmon.Levels of large predatory fish in the global oceans are estimated to be about 10% of their pre-industrial levels...

, particularly game fish
Game fish
Game fish are fish pursued for sport by recreational anglers. They can be freshwater or marine fish. Game fish can be eaten after being caught, though increasingly anglers practise catch and release to improve fish populations. Some game fish are also targeted commercially, particularly...

. Species used are typically those that are common and breed rapidly, making them easy to catch and in regular supply. Examples of marine bait fish are anchovies
Anchovies are a family of small, common salt-water forage fish. There are 144 species in 17 genera, found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Anchovies are usually classified as an oily fish.-Description:...

, halfbeak
The halfbeaks are a geographically widespread and numerically abundant family of epipelagic fish inhabiting warm waters around the world. The family Hemiramphidae is divided into two subfamilies, the primarily marine Hemiramphinae and the freshwater or estuarine Zenarchopterinae...

s such as ballyhoo
The ballyhoo or bally, Hemiramphus brasiliensis, is a baitfish of the halfbeak family . It is similar to the Balao halfbeak . Ballyhoo are frequently used as cut bait and for trolling purposes by saltwater sportsmen.Ballyhoo can also be seen above the waters skimming the surface to escape from...

, and scad
Atlantic horse mackerel
The Atlantic horse mackerel, Trachurus trachurus is a species of mackerel in the family Carangidae. It gets its common name from the legend that other smaller species of fish could ride on the back of it over great distances...

. Some larger fish such as menhaden, flying fish, or ladyfish may be considered bait fish in some circles, depending on the size of the gamefish being pursued.
Freshwater bait fish include any fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 of the minnow
Minnow is a general term used to refer to small freshwater and saltwater fish, especially those used as bait fish or for fishing bait. More specifically, it refers to small freshwater fish of the carp family.-True minnows:...

 or carp
Carp are various species of oily freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia. The cypriniformes are traditionally grouped with the Characiformes, Siluriformes and Gymnotiformes to create the superorder Ostariophysi, since these groups have certain...

 family (Cyprinidae), sucker family (Catostomidae
Catostomidae is the sucker family of the order Cypriniformes. There are 80 species in this family of freshwater fishes. Catostomidae are found in North America, east central China, and eastern Siberia...

), top minnows or killifish
A killifish is any of various oviparous cyprinodontiform fish . Altogether, there are some 1270 different species of killifish, the biggest family being Rivulidae, containing more than 320 species...

 family (Cyprinodontidae), shad
The shads or river herrings comprise the genus Alosa, fish related to herring in the family Clupeidae. They are distinct from others in that family by having a deeper body and spawning in rivers. The several species frequent different areas on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea....

 family (Clupeidae
Clupeidae is the family of the herrings, shads, sardines, hilsa and menhadens. It includes many of the most important food fishes in the world.-Description and biology:...

), sculpin
A Sculpin is a fish that belongs to the order Scorpaeniformes, suborder Cottoidei and superfamily Cottoidea, that contains 11 families, 149 genera, and 756 species...

 of the order Osteichthyes
Osteichthyes , also called bony fish, are a taxonomic group of fish that have bony, as opposed to cartilaginous, skeletons. The vast majority of fish are osteichthyes, which is an extremely diverse and abundant group consisting of over 29,000 species...

 or sunfish family (Centrarchidae
The sunfishes are a family of freshwater ray-finned fish belonging to the order Perciformes. The type genus is Centrarchus . The family's 27 species includes many fishes familiar to North Americans, including the rock bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappies...

), excluding black bass
Black bass
Micropterus , is a genus of freshwater fish in the sunfish family of order Perciformes. The type species is M. dolomieu, the smallmouth bass...

es and crappie
Crappie is a genus of freshwater fish in the sunfish family of order Perciformes. The type species is P. annularis, the white crappie...


Bait fish can be contrasted with forage fish
Forage fish
Forage fish, also called prey fish or bait fish, are small fish which are preyed on by larger predators for food. Predators include other larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Typical ocean forage fish feed near the base of the food chain on plankton, often by filter feeding...

. Bait fish is a term used particularly by recreational fishermen, although commercial fisherman also catch fish to bait longlines and traps. Forage fish is a fisheries term, and is used in the context of fisheries. Forage fish are the small fish that are preyed on in the wild by larger predators for food. The predators can be other larger fish, seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s and marine mammal
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

s. Bait fish, by contrast, are fish that are caught by humans to use as bait for other fish. The terms also overlap in the sense that most bait fish are also forage fish, and most forage fish can also be used as bait fish.

Baitfish can be attracted either via scent, or by using light which actually works by attracting zooplankton, a primary food source for many baitfish, which are then drawn to the light.

Bait fish can also be contrasted with feeder fish
Feeder fish
Feeder fish is the generic name for certain types of inexpensive fish commonly fed as live prey to captive animals such as sharks, turtles and some other fish such as oscars.-Advantages of using feeder fish:...

. Feeder fish is a term used particularly in the context of fish aquarium
An aquarium is a vivarium consisting of at least one transparent side in which water-dwelling plants or animals are kept. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, marine mammals, turtles, and aquatic plants...

s. It refers essentially the same concept, small fish that are eaten by larger fish, but adapted for use in a different context.

Bait fish are consumed by larger, aquatic predators. Swimming in ocean water with bait fish can be dangerous, as these fish attract sharks. Bait fish will sometimes use whale sharks as a shield from their other predators such as tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

, as tuna are usually wary of approaching the shark. The shark cannot attack the bait fish easily, as they constantly swim above its back and are too fast for the shark to manoeuvre its mouth into position. However, the shark eventually dives deep, where the bait fish cannot follow, and as the other predators finally dare attack the stranded bait fish, the shark comes back to eat numerous bait fish who are already preoccupied with the attacking tuna.

Fly fisherman
Fly fishing
Fly fishing is an angling method in which an artificial 'fly' is used to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. Casting a nearly weightless fly or 'lure' requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting...

 use artificial flies
Artificial fly
An artificial fly or fly lure is a type of fishing lure, usually used in the sport of fly fishing . In general, artificial flies are the bait which fly fishers present to their target species of fish while fly fishing...

 resembling different species of bait fish to catch other fish on a fly rod.

Management and conservation

Bait fish are often short lived and proliferate spawners. This means their populations can fluctuate rapidly
Population dynamics of fisheries
A fishery is an area with an associated fish or aquatic population which is harvested for its commercial or recreational value. Fisheries can be wild or farmed. Population dynamics describes the ways in which a given population grows and shrinks over time, as controlled by birth, death, and...

, and they can often recover quickly when depleted. Regulations may exist to prevent overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

, as in Arkansas and Massachusetts. Studies by fisheries and conservation agencies monitor the health of bait fish populations, allowing regional governments to set quotas .
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