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bait fish

Fishing For Live Bait

Along the west coast of Florida, we have a lot of different bait species that are available most of the year. When one bait leaves the area to spawn, there is generally another that is still available to use in fair numbers. The most popular live bait is the scaled sardine that everyone in the Tampa Bay are calls “whitebait”. Probably the second most popular….

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Spanish Sardine

Here’s my all-time favorite bait for just about everything on the Gulf coast! Spanish sardines (Sardinella aurita) are members of the herring family and have a slender body, bluish or greenish back, white belly and very silver sides. They grow to about ten inches – and will fill your bait well with loose scales very quickly. You must have a good water flow to keep them healthy – especially during summer when water temperatures are high. Everything loves to eat sardines and they are great bait either alive or cut, trolled or fished on the bottom….

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Silver Trout

The silver trout (Cynoscion nothus) is a wonderful bait for most species of gamefish. I love to use them primarily for king mackerel and barracuda, but they are great bottom fish bait as well. Like most of the fish in this series, silver trout are at the lower end of the food chain and so make good bait for nearly anything in the Gulf of Mexico….

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Silver Perch

The silver perch (Bairdiella chrysura) is a member of the drum family, croaker clan. It is a very silvery fish with a darker back. It only grows to about eight inches and favors mud bottoms. There are differing opinions about the popularity of it as a panfish, but it is a good bait fish….

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Scaled Sardine

One of my favorite baits is the Scaled Sardine (Harengula Jaguana). On the west coast of Florida, we call them whitebait. In other areas there could be many other names from pilchard to greenie. They are distinguished by their sharply pointed, keeled belly. Scaled sardines grow to an average of six inches and are great baits no matter what size you catch for almost all species of fish…..

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Pinfish are great bait for a wide variety of species; they are easy to catch and are found all over the shallow waters of the Suncoast. Put a little bit of bait (squid works very well) on about a #2 or #4 hook and toss it over some grassy bottom – it won’t be long before the well is full of ‘pins. You can also chum them up with….

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Striped Mullet

Striped mullet (Mugil cephalus), black mullet, and fatback: We love it fried or broiled and even the gizzards are delicious when cleaned properly and fried. Oops, I guess I got carried away. Alive or as cut bait, mullet are great for kings, barracuda, amberjack, you name it, everything (including me) – loves to eat mullet…..

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Striped Mojarra

Striped mojarra aka: sand perch, goat, goat fish, and sand bream make very good bait for almost everything. Diapterus plumiere does have soft flesh and will not take too much abuse in the baitwell or on the hook but grouper, snook, tarpon and snapper, to name a few – all love them….

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Shad, bunker, shiner, pogey, and no telling how many other names, are all describing the menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). There are two in the gulf in my area: the gulf menhaden, with one large spot behind the gill cover with several smaller spots behind it, and the finescale menhaden with only one spot behind the gill cover….

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Glass Minnow

Glass minnows and silversides are anchovies. Yes, the same anchovy that you eat on pizza or in Caesar dressing. The bay anchovy is Anchoa mitchilli for those of you that hope to catch me in my identification mistakes. They range from Maine through the Gulf of Mexico in great abundance. They are easily recognized by the fact that they are transparent with a broad silver stripe down the side and are seldom over three inches long….

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