Adding a live bait tank to your boat can significantly increase the number and size of the fish you catch in the UAE waters. Keeping your live baits alive and healthy relies on having a large, well-designed, properly aerated live bait tank onboard your boat. Sport and game fishermen in the UAE have used live bait to catch species such as kingfish, queenfish, and dorado for decades. When trolling lures or using strip or skipping baits is proving unsuccessful, offshore anglers can often rely on live bait to stir up some action. This is particularly true when fishing in the heat of the day, when some fish species run deeper, away from the surface – or when they are simply reluctant to bite.

Importance of Live Bait Tanks

The same principles apply to anglers fishing bay, harbour, estuary, and coastal waters in the UAE. When fish are not responding to lures or strip baits, switching to live baits will often produce results and ensure you don’t go home empty-handed. It is crucial, then, for a modern fishing boat in the UAE to be equipped with a live bait holding tank or live well to keep pre-caught live bait alive and healthy.

DIY Live Bait Tanks

Live bait tanks come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from a variety of materials. In the UAE, anglers have seen big, circular homemade tanks made from plastic garbage bins, rectangular tanks made from Nalley boxes, and tanks made from chemical containers, ice boxes, and more. Inshore anglers using live prawns, nippers, and other smaller live baits can get by with a nappy bucket and portable clip-on aerator, but for larger fish baits, nothing beats a specific live bait holding tank, be it factory fitted or home-made.

Built-in Live Bait Tanks

The best live bait tanks are usually those built into the boat by its maker. In trailer boats in the UAE, the most common location for a built-in live bait tank is recessed into the port or starboard side transom coaming, next to the outboard engine well or sterndrive engine box. Other popular spots include the area just in front of the outboard well or inside a storage box beneath the helm or front passenger chairs.

Keeping the Bait Healthy

Ensuring that your live baits stay alive and kicking in your tank for a full day involves several factors. The size of the tank, relative to the size of the bait, is critical. Prawns and nippers can survive in a small, well-aerated tank, but larger baits like yellowtail and slimy mackerel will require a tank with a capacity of at least 60 litres, and much more for offshore game fishing.

Pump Placement

Equally important is keeping the flow of water up to the tank. A live bait pump of at least 500 gallons an hour will recycle the water in smaller tanks when your boat is sitting at rest. The pump should be running most of the time if you are holding more than half a dozen baits.

Water Scoop

If you have a transom- or through-transom-mounted live bait pump, you will likely need to fit a water scoop to feed new water into your live well while on the move. This is because your pump (or the transom skin fitting/tube that leads to your internal pump) will likely be out of the water and sucking air when the boat is running at speed.

Tank Shapes and Sizes

When it comes to the shape of a live bait tank, most people believe that a circular or semi-circular shape works the best. A rectangular tank with rounded internal corners will work equally well. However, the width of the tank is the most important factor, especially when holding more than a dozen baits.

Plumbing and Drainage

As far as plumbing is concerned, having the inlet and the outlet pipes at the top of the tank is standard practice these days, even though it makes more sense to have the new, oxygenated saltwater flowing into the bottom of the tank, as far away as possible from the overflow at the top.

Interior Color

There is some debate over whether a live bait tank should have a light- or dark-coloured interior. Sky blue is trending because many anglers believe this colour has a calming effect on the live baits.

Tuna Tubes

The live bait tube, or “tuna tube”, was developed for offshore marlin fishing where large individual bait fish such as small tuna and mackerel need to be kept alive all day.


Whether you prefer a round tank, square tank, tall tank, or short tank, the fact is that if you are serious about your fishing in the UAE, your boat needs to be fitted with a live bait tank, a brace of tuna tubes, or some other means of keeping live bait. It doesn’t matter if you fish for kingfish or queenfish, marlin or dorado, having the ability to fish with live bait will increase your fishing options considerably and help you catch more fish in the UAE waters.