Maybe the fish weren’t biting, maybe your outboard broke down, or maybe strong winds blew you right off the bay. Whatever the reason, if you end up with a cooler full of left-over bait and no keeper fish, there’s no reason to be bummed. Well, maybe there is if you were fishing with worms. But if you have soft crab, squid, eel, or clams on ice, you’re in for a treat.

squid for bait

Is it bait, or is it dinner? Yes.

SOFT CRAB – I’m putting this one first, only because it’s my favorite bait to eat. Begin by lifting the edges of the shell, and remove the crab’s gills. Then dust the crab with a mix of Old Bay seasoning, flour, and a pinch of brown sugar. Fry it in melted butter until the shell begins to brown, then flip it and fry the other side. When you take a bite, you’ll be glad the fish didn’t. NEWS FLASH: Soft Crab also made our list of  the World's Best Five Baits.

SQUID - Few baits are as tasty as squid rings dusted in corn meal and garlic salt. Give them a dip in scrambled egg first so the coating sticks, then fry them in hot oil. The key to home-made calamari? Make sure you only let those rings fry for two to three minutes; most people over-cook them, which makes them too chewy.

EELS – The best way to prepare an eel for eating is to smoke it, but that’s also a time-consuming chore. For a quick-fix, try making a Seagoing Slim Jim: cut off the eel’s head and innards, pop the body into the microwave, and cook it on high for about 1:30. You’ll be surprised at how appetizing it is.

CLAMS – Steamed clams are about as easy as it gets: simply put some water in the bottom of a pot, add a metal strainer to keep the clams out of the water, and let them steam until the shells pop open. As they steam, melt some butter for dipping. Yummy!