Baits Of The Water

By: Capt. Dave Stephens

There are many different types of natural baits that are popular among the anglers and many opinions on what is the best. The choices range from live sardines to cut bait. I am going to try to help you with the what, when, and where of natural bait fishing. Water temperature and times of the year play a huge part in bait selection along with what species of fish you are targeting. By far the most popular are scaled sardines, AKA (pilchards or white bait). Sardines can be found from spring till fall on most flats. The preferred method of catching these little guys is to anchor up and chum them to the boat and cast net them. Once you have located some bait on the flats you want to position yourself, so the tide takes the chum to the bait. I highly recommend this method even though some people try to run up on the schools and throw their nets. They get a few, but only break up the schools and make it more difficult for them. If you have made any trips across the harbor, I’m sure you have noticed the big schools of bait. These are most likely threadfin herring, and look very similar to sardines however, they will not come to chum. Pinfish is also a very popular bait during the summer months, also during the hotter months some will use cut bait such as ladyfish, mullet and sardines. This type of fishing is commonly called dead sticking and requires a more patient approach. Cast nets come in many lengths, weights and mesh sizes. On the flats I would recommend 8–10-foot net with a mesh size of 3/8 or 1/4 inch depending on the size of bait. Out in the deeper water you need a heavy net with a slight larger mesh size that will sink faster. Any of the local tackle shops can fit you with the net that will best fit your needs.

Capt. Dave Stephens
941-916-5769

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