How to Make a Fish Trap Out of a Bottle
Last week our lakes were high as we had a lot of rain in a short amount of time. This caused the lake to flood up onto the lawn in front of our house and with it came some small fish feeding on what was before unreachable for them.
I took that opportunity to grab the swimming pool net, and start scooping some out. My neighbors across the lake must have seen my feeble attempt at catching small fish because later that day they came over and showed me how to catch them using a plastic bottle.
Using an Exacto knife, they cut a small opening down the side of an old 2 liter Coca-Cola bottle, about 1.5" x 3". The important part is maintaining the flap. The flap is still attached and pushed inside the bottle. This keeps the majority of the cornmeal (the bait) from floating out and helps to keep the fish in the bottle.
Selecting a Bait for the Fish Trap
The neighbors asked if I had cassava flour, which I didn't, so we used some old bread. Daylight was fading, and we didn't catch any fish. I was getting disillusioned with their fish trap. They told me to start earlier in the day, and it would work. I decided to try cornmeal as I always have some at my home.
I placed the cornmeal in the bottle and submerged it on the top step, which is only a few inches deep. The cornmeal floated inside the bottle, like a well-shaken snow globe. I decided to go low-tech, using a piece of broken concrete to keep the bottle from rolling off the step and into deeper water.
The fish I am after are called Piaba, and there are a lot of them. They are small pretty silver fish with orange on their tail. Whenever I fish, they steal the bait. Therefore, I have no qualms about removing these from the lake.
Choosing the Location and Observations about Fish Behavior
My neighbors put the bottle on the step so I guessed it was a good idea to do the same. What I have noticed is at different times of day, the step is in a shadow.
I have a theory that the fish don't want to swim into a dark hole so I position the bottle so the sun shines on it. This way the fish can see the cornmeal or bread inside and are more likely to enter the bottle. After watching for some time, I also can deduce that having the cap towards the wall is better. Once the fish are inside they will swim towards the wider portion which is the bottom of the bottle. This is the section which is behind the flap.
After watching the fish, they do seem to swim in and out of the bottle and treat this more like a feeding station. A hand placed over the opening when pulling the bottle out traps them inside.
Things Worth Noting
I go out and check the bottle several times a day which is no hardship as it is only 20 feet from the house.
I have a deep bucket that I use to keep the fish in and this I keep in the shade. Several times throughout the day, I empty this and put the fish into the freezer. There are a couple of items you should be aware of regarding using this method.
- The fish need oxygen and if they are left too long in a bucket the oxygen will soon become depleted. You'll know this is the case if you see them gasping for air on the surface. Don't let this happen, although they are going to be killed, you don't need to make them suffer.
- Don't fill the bucket more than half full with water. Some fish jump and can propel themselves up and out of a bucket and wiggle their way back to the body of water. I learned this the hard way. I had caught about 40 fish and when I went back to check half of them were missing. Their jumping skills will also be evident when you are getting them out of the bucket.
- I put a colander in our outside sink and pour the bucket of fish into it. It is a good idea to use the sink strainer as an extra security measure as you don't want any small fish to get stuck in the plughole.
- If you want to do this regularly, it's a good idea to feed the area so fish become accustomed to going there for food.
- Just recently I noticed a predator called a wolf fish sitting on top of the bottle near the entrance. Not only was this keeping the small fish from coming near the bottle, he might have eaten any trying to escape the bottle. I solved this problem by using a live fish for bait and caught the predator.
Uses of Small Fish
There are many things we could do with these little fish. My neighbors will fry up the larger ones which grow to 3-4 inches. I also have seen them for sale at our local corner shop. I, however, feed them to my cat and one of the dogs and the chickens, they love them and they're fresh.
If I don't want them jumping out of the cat's food bowl and onto my kitchen floor, I will transfer them into an old ice cream tub and put them in the freezer which kills them humanely. After they are dead but still pliable, I put them in the fridge, until the cat decides she should be fed.
Update on Design
After looking for more inspiration on YouTube, I have found some interesting adjustments or tweaks I can do to my fish trap. We don't consume soft drinks so I need to source some bottles from my neighbors.
My modifications will include drainage holes along the bottom. Not only will this allow the water to drain before I remove the fish, it will also get the air bubbles out when I place it on the step.
What would you do with these fish?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Mary Wickison