Bait Choice

Last summer my family and I went snorkeling in St. Joseph Bay on the Florida Panhandle. We were able to find, among other creatures, scallops, crabs, and (surprisingly to us) many sea urchins. We are going back this year to try our hands at fishing, and were wondering what type of bait we should use, and what kind of fish we can expect to catch. The water of the bay varies from just a few feet deep, even at some distance from the shore, to (I’m guessing) more than 50 feet deep, close to where the bay meets the Gulf. Sorry for the wordiness of this “question”!

The question of which bait to use and which species of fish you are likely to catch are intertwined. The answer to the first question has a direct influence to the answer to the second question. One key principle to always remember is lively bait works best. If you can keep your bait fresh you will have won half the battle. Without a doubt the most commonly used bait in all parts of Florida in the shrimp. Live jumbo shrimp would certainly be the bait of choice. In the absence of live shrimp you can use cut shrimp or frozen shrimp. Just be sure to use freshly thawed shrimp and not those that have begun to become rancid. With shrimp you can catch a variety of fish. Several species of Snappers will be your most common catches. Other fish bound to find the end of your line are Sheephead, Marine Catfish, Atlantic Spadefish, Flounder, Sea Trout, Mojira and quite a few less common species. For bigger catches you should switch to using live fish for bait. Most bait stores in Florida sell live pilchards and pinfish for this purpose. When using these baits you will start to catch larger species of fish such as Redfish, Black Drum, Tarpon, Snook and several different species of Sharks. When fishing live bait make sure you have reels with sufficient amount of line spooled on them. If you hook into a large Shark or Tarpon they can easily take over one hundred yards of line off a reel in a very short amount of time.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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