When To Use A Stringer Vs. A Fish Basket

Bluegill caught in summer, summer bluegill, fishing in summer

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If You Plan On Keeping Your Fish You’ll Need To Decide Whether You’ll Need a Fishing Stringer Or Fish Basket


One of the many great things about fishing is reaping the rewards from your hard efforts and providing a delicious meal for you and your family. On a good day when the fish cooperate, you’ll need a way to transport them.  If you’re not in a boat with a live well, you’re going to need a bucket, a stringer, or a fish basket.

But, how do you know which to get?  We will eliminate the bucket for this discussion and focus more on a stringer vs. a fish basket.


Fish Stringer Vs. A Fish Basket


A stringer is a pretty simple but effective design.  The length is really the only variable when choosing a stringer, but I try opting for the longest one I can get away with.

Fish stringers are usually thin ropes that have metal attachments to each end.  On one end is an eyehook and the other is the spike end.  They are very cheap and lightweight making them transportable in any situation.  Fish are attached to the line as you catch them and placed back into the water.

A fish basket on the other hand is a wire fish trap with a lid that sits at the top of it.  The lid is spring loaded which allows you to push fish through the top but will not open up without downward pressure.  This cause the fish to be able to enter but not escape.  Since its perforated wire mesh, a fish basket allows water in as it submerges.


How To Use A Stringer?

When you catch your first harvestable fish, you will untangle your stringer.   First run the spiked end up under the fish’s gills so that the spike exits through its mouth.  Take care to make sure you only do minimal damage to the fish’s gills system so that they will live longer.  Gently slide the fish down towards the eye hook.  Finally run the spike through the eyes which will prevent the fish from getting off the line without going back through the way it entered.


How To Use A Fish Basket

Fish Baskets are simpler as they’re like using a bucket with a five-gallon lid on it.  Once you have a harvestable fish you will lift the basket up where it’s completely stretched out.  While you have the fish in your hand push it through the lid at the top.  The fish will fall into the basket and start flopping around.  Immediately throw the basket out as far as you can to ensure the fish will have plenty of water filling the basket.  It will now be able to swim around inside as most lids are buoyant.


Using A Fish Stringer



Fish stringers are inexpensive, they’re easy to transport, and can hold a pretty good mess of fish.  Given their simple design you can stake them to the ground from the spear end which will keep them from swimming off.

Stringers are much more suitable for shallower banks and if you have longer walks to get to your honey hole.



Neither of the options above will keep your fish alive forever.  Of the two options, the stringer has a higher mortality rate.  As you add fish to the stringer, they will naturally try swimming away.  The more fish you have on a stringer the more damage to the fish’s gills will occur due to the friction.  While they may still be able to swim, the damage that occurred will almost certainly spell death for the fish if released.

Larger fish will have the capability of pulling your stringer out of the ground potentially swimming off with your days catch which is a total bummer!


Using A Fish Basket



Fish baskets have the ability to hold more fish than stringers.  They also keep fish alive longer as long as the fish have room to swim around inside.  They’re very durable and a well-kept in fact, one can last you for well over a decade!

Bigger Fish like channel catfish can still fit inside of a larger basket and won’t cause the basket to stray away.



Fish baskets can be heavier and tougher to transport if you plan on fishing for long distances.  If you have a full basket, then there’s a good chance you’ll have to dedicate one of your hands to just carrying it.  

Fish baskets are not a good option for kayak fishermen as they’re not aerodynamic and will create a ton of drag as you paddle along.   

They’re not suited well for really shallow water either as the basket is made to stretch out.  If your basket is three feet tall then you want to sit your basket in water that’s greater than three feet.  Otherwise, the wire will collapse on the fish causing premature death.




While a livewell is the single best way to keep fish alive the longest, there are options for bank fishermen.  Fish Stringers and Fish Baskets each have their pluses and draw backs.  

If I’m going out on a kayak trip I will opt for a stringer, however if I’m fishing off of a dock, I would be best served with a fish basket.

Just know that the warmer the water, the more active the fish will be which will cause them to die quicker.  A stringer and a fish basket aren’t designed to keep them alive forever but rather keep your fish fresh.



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