A group of New England inventors say they’ve cracked the code for what they see as a persistent problem for saltwater anglers: live bait that doesn’t stay alive long enough.

Magurobotics, a Somerville, Massachusetts company, has devised a product that it says makes dead baitfish appear to swim.

The issue is this: it’s easier to catch predatory fish with live bait, but it’s really hard to fish with them from the shore, the inventors say. And if you have a live well in your boat, the bait can die before you get a chance to fish them.

That’s where the device, called Zombait, comes in. It’s basically a robotic tube that you shove down the throat of a dead baitfish, making the piscine carcass appear to swim. It’s both crude and elegant in its simplicity.

The Zombait is water-activated. So your rigged bait won’t wiggle until you drop it in the water.

Rink Varian, a Maine fisherman, helped come up with the idea, according to the team’s Kickstarter video.

“I’ve been looking for a product like this for years and I couldn’t find it on the market, so I decided to make it myself,” Varian said.

Here’s the backstory from the company:

Zombait started as a napkin sketch when Rink, a veteran fisherman with over 35 years of experience, and Matthew, a robotics engineer with an interest in bring ideas to life, were talking over a holiday meal in 2013 about the possibility of making dead bait fish swim.

Matthew brought the idea to Jessy, a product design engineer, and the two quickly began brainstorming on how to package this functionality into a device which would fit well into an average-sized bait fish.

Now, this brings up some questions. Can you fish with a battery-powered lure? What happens if the fish you’re targeting swallows it?

When it comes to fishing in freshwater, this device is legal, according to Mark Latti, spokesman for the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who nevertheless said he wasn’t thrilled about a battery-powered, rubber-covered device ending up on the bottom of a lake.

“Currently it would be legal to use in waters where dead or live bait is allowed,” he said. “However, we would have concerns about the potential impacts of this lure on the environment and to wildlife.”

The inventors say that as long as you know what you’re doing, that shouldn’t be a problem.

“If you usually get your hook back, you should get Zombait back, as long as you know how to tie a good knot,” they said. “With that being said, you’ll have to let us know how it holds up if you use one to catch a shark with.”

Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the...