Great Bait with Nicole Kirchhoff

Where you get your live bait matters. Here, the Jupiter native and aquaculture farmer explains why

Nicole Kirchhoff. Photo by Nick Sargent
Nicole Kirchhoff. Photo by Nick Sargent

Many amateur anglers never consider where the bait they are using comes from (unless of course they caught some mullet themselves). But understanding what you put on your hook is vitally important to the future of fishing and our coastal environment. Jupiter native Nicole Kirchhoff founded Live Advantage Bait in 2013, the first and only commercial marine baitfish aquaculture company in the country. From its Fort Pierce aquaculture farm, Live Advantage Bait produces six different species of baitfish that are distributed to commercial and recreational fishing outlets and smaller aquaculture farms. Kirchhoff, who recently won a CARES award from the Florida Farm Bureau in recognition of her efforts to protect Florida’s environment, shares what we should know about baitfish. 

What exactly is baitfish aquaculture?

In Florida alone, $274 million is spent annually on live bait, and most of it comes from the wild. Baitfish aquaculture is the process of growing fish in captivity for use as bait so we are not depleting what is in our waters. Growing fish through aquaculture, whether it is used as baitfish or as food fish, is a very healthy, environmentally sound way of getting food. 

Kirchhoff’s kids helping out at Live Advantage Bait. Photo by Nick Sargent
Kirchhoff’s kids helping out at Live Advantage Bait. Photo by Nick Sargent

What are some of the benefits of baitfish aquaculture? 

Growing baitfish takes pressure off the wild stock of baitfish. Wild baitfish stocks are collapsing because of coastal water pollution. If we stop depleting our coastal stock of baitfish, and they are allowed to rebound, then commercially important fish will come closer to shore again, making it more fun for recreational and commercial fishermen. 

How do I know if the bait I buy came from an aquaculture farm? 

Fish grown at an aquaculture farm are what we call “fat.” They are in much nicer condition than wild fish that are caught and transported under stressful conditions. You can also ask your bait and tackle shop or charter fisherman where they got their bait from. The shops that get bait from us are very proud to tell customers where it came from.

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