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Baits

American Shad

                                          In Ireland they have a name for sushi; Bait.

american-shad

Family Clupeidae

Description: color of back green or greenish blue with metallic lustre; silvery sides, white underneath (colors darken when fish enters fresh water to spawn); belly with scutes forming distinct keel; one or more dark spots in a row behind operculum; lower jaw with pointed tip that fits into v-shaped notch in upper jaw. Excellent kingfish and tarpon bait.

Similar fish: outer species of Alosa (shad and herring) and Brevoortia (menhaden); menhaden, which are often referred to as "shad," have a rounder lower jaw tip; American shad is an east coast species replaced on the Panhandle coast by Alabama shad

Where found: offshore, except during late winter spawning run into east coast rivers, notably the St. Johns River

Remarks: anadromous species, coming into fresh water to spawn; young remain in fresh water to length of 2 to 4 inches, then move out to sea; plankton feeder, but strikes small (bright spoons or flies); their roe (as many as 30,000 in a single female) is prized, the flesh full of fork bones.

 
 

Atlantic Bumper

 atlantic-bumper

Family Carangidae

Description: silvery to golden below; yellowish anal and caudal fins; conspicuous black saddle on caudal peduncle and small black area at edge of opercle; lower profile more arched than upper profile; lateral line strongly arched toward front. Aso known as "Pumpkin Seeds" atlantic Bumper are not a very sought after baitfish among sports anglers. Cmmonly found in Tampa Bay waters.

Size: to 30 centimeters (1 foot)

Where found: one of the most abundant inshore fishes in tropical America; commonly enters bays and estuaries

 

Ballyhoo

 

ballyhoo

Family Exocoetidae

Description: tip of lower jaw and upper lobe of caudal fin orange-red; pectoral fin short; tip of pelvic fin extends past beginning of dorsal fin; dorsal and anal fins unscaled. Excellent off-shore bait for sailfish, dolphin, and wahoo.

Where found: ballyhoo young are pelagic; adults abundant in bays and nearshore waters, near reefs, Tampa Bay grass flats and deeper bay waters. Ballyhoo are are primarily used  offshore when trolling for sailfish, wahoo, and dolphin. However, ballyhoo make an awesome inshore snook bait when fished live at night around south florida bridges.

 Size: Ballyhoo can grow up to 16 inches.

Tampa Ballyhoo  Report. Look for schools of ballyhoo along Tampa Bays grass flats where there is good water clarity; ballyhoo perfer clean water conditions. Schools of ballyhoo have been sighted along Egmont Keys shipping channel and main cut.

 

Blue Runner

 

blue-runner

Family Carangidae

Description: color light olive to bluish green above, silvery gray to golden below; frequently black spot on operculum; readily distinguished from crevalle jack by lack of a dark blotch on the pectoral fin; tail tips blackish. One of Tampa's best live baits for Smoker size Kingfish.

Similar fish: bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix; other Caranx

Where found: juveniles found offshore; adult nearshore in schools, but sometimes ranging inshore as well

Size: usually less than 1 pound (11 inches)

Remarks: matures by 9 to 10 inches; spawns offshore from January through August; young form schools associated with floating objects, and have been observed living inside the bell of jellyfish; adults feed on fish, shrimp, and squid

 

Fantail Mullet

 

fantail-mullet

Family Mugilidae

Description: Fantail mullet area olive green with blue tints on back, shading to silvery sides, white below; anal and pelvic fins yellowish; dark blotch at base of pectoral fin; inverted V-shaped mouth; insertion of second dorsal over that of the anal fin

Similar fish: striped mullet, M. cephalus; white mullet, M. curema

Where found: inshore, occurring along beaches in the fall

Size: small mullet, less than 1 pound

Remarks: spawns in nearshore or possibly inshore waters during spring and summer; juveniles occur inshore; feeds on algae, small crustaceans, and detritus. Fantail Mullet make great live for snook, tarpon, grouper and shark. Fantails used as a cut bait work well for red fish and big snook.

 

Florida Bait Crabs

                                                        FLORIDA  BLUE  CRAB

                                                           Atlantic and Gulf Blue Crab

                                        bluecrabpic

 Callinectus Sapidus

 Description:  Tampa fishing- bait fish report. There are many variations of  blue crab. The largest of the blue crab is the adult Atlantic blue crab. Identified by large lateral teeth which are narrow and sharply pointed. located between the eyes are two median teeth. The blue crab's walking legs are paddled which allow it to swim and scuttle backwards in a crab like fashion. It's color is grayish to bluish green with red and orange on spines and claw tips.

 Size: Atlantic and Gulf blue crabs grow to 19 cm ( width of carapace).

 Habitat: The blue crab as many other crabs of their genius inhabit the mudd and sand bottoms of Tampa Bay. They reside in shallow water regions of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico in a water depth of 2 meters to 18 meters. Common in the tropic waters through out the Carribean as well as the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

 Remarks: The blue crab can act agressively towards divers and crabers by waving its front claws in a threatening manner.

Blue Crabs make awesome baits for a wide variety of fish including: tarpon, permit, shark, black drum, grouper, cobia and more. For inshore application use small (2-4in.) live blue crabs, hook crab from bottom of shell through top of shell at the point. For best results free line bait. For offshore application try splitting crab in half and soaking it on bottom using an ample amount of weight. 

How to catch:

                                                          FLORIDA  PASS  CRAB

                                                  passcrab 

 

 The Florida pass crab is "Tarpon Candy"! Pass crabs also known as Calicos and Finagan crabs are the go to live bait for tarpon in Boca Grande and Tampa Bay! The tarpon action on a Hill Tide can be nothing short of spectacular! The reason for such awesome tarpon action is the "crab chew" or "crab flush"!

The Crab Flush is a natural phenomiumn that occurs every summer in Tampa Bay and Boca Grande Pass. It only happens on a hill tide (and 4 days before and the 4 days that follow)during new and full moon phases. The crab flush occurs on the out going tide. Pass Crabs along with blue crabs are drawn to the surface by the magical lure of the moon. These crabs are then swept out through the bay and passes by the strong out going currents of the hill tide. As thousands of pass crabs funnel through the passes they spark insane feeding frenzies among hungry pods tarpon awaiting an easy meal! It's not uncommon to jump 10 to 20 or more poons during a good crab flush!

FLORIDA PASS CRAB

Identification: Pass Crabs are very simular to atlantic blue crabs in relation to the shape of their shells. The pass crab has a blotchey shell pattern; legs and pinchers often vary in color from purple to pink, to shades of violet and are proportionally narrower than that of the blue crab. The adult pass crab only reaches about a third the size of the blue crab.

Habitat: Inhabits grass and sandy bottoms through out south florida. Appear during summer out going hill tides in the mouths of passes which bottle neck into the Gulf of Mexico. Can be spotted in numbers floating on top of the water often in weed lines.

size: Pass crabs can grow to the size of 4-5 inches in width of shell. 3-4 inches is considered ideal size for tarpon fishing.

How To Catch: Florida pass crabs are easily caught from a boat with the use of a long handled dipp net. The trick to finding and catching pass crabs lies in the tide. The tide must be an out going one and it must be on or around the hilltide. During an out going hill tide pass crabs will begin to flush out of  bays and passes. Just look for crabs on top of the water and scoop 'em up! 2011 has been a banner year for Tampa blue crab populations! 

Hot Spots: Tampa Bay's best known pass crab hot spots are the Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key. Boca Grande Pass is a ledgenary pass crab hot spot as well!

Tampa Pass Crab Report. Look for the first pass crabs of the season to show up around the first full moon of May!

 

                                                   Fiddler Crab

                          fiddlercrabpic

Ocypodidae

Habitat:Florida Fiddler Crabs  are also known as Calling Crabs. Fiddler Crabs are found around muddy shorelines, sandy beaches, dense mangroves and saltwater marshes through out Florida. 

Description:Fiddler Crabs vary in color ranging from tan to bluish green with accents of red, purple, orange and yellow. Fiddlers are considered diurnal which means their colors become darker during the day and lighter at night.

Size: The fiddler crab averages between 1-2 in. in length.

Fiddler Crabs eat anything that is edible like most crabs they are expert savangers. They borrow  in the ground and come out to search for food which may include algae, microbes, fungus, dead fish or even a  french fry drop by a passer by. 

Florida fiddler crabs are a favorite bait among Tampa sheepshead fiherman. Fiddlers are collected live on the shore often around local boat ramps. They can also be purchased at most bait and tackle stores . For best results hook fiddlers through back leg hole. Fiddlers are  mainly fished around pilons, jetties, bridges and docks, all of which are known to hold  Tampa Sheepshead. 

Remarks:It is said that fiddler crabs got their name, beause with their one large claw they resemble a little man playing his fiddle. 

                                          SAND CRAB

Sand Crabs also known as Sand Fleas make excellent pompano bait. Can be found on Tampa and St. Petersburg beaches at surfs break. Pompano fishing the beach can be fun for the whole family and nothing goes better with your  morning eggs than fresh Tampa Bay pompano.

Sand Fleas also work extremely well when targeting Tampa Bay permit and sheepshead. They are very simple to catch if you know where to look. They can commonly be found on the beach at the surf line. Look for them to be digging frantically in the sand as the waves recede. Once you locate one or two you will be able to collect as many as you wish. Start by digging with a sand flea rake which can be purchased at your local bait & tackle shop. Good luck and leave some for me!

                                                      

                                   Florida Sand Crab Also Known As The Sand Flea

                            

 

Glass Minnow

 

bay-anchovy

Family Exocoetidae

Description: The body of the Bay Anchovy is relatively deep; head short; snout very short, only slightly overhanging mouth; silvery stripe narrow, often faint or absent toward front; stripe fades after death; body grayish, with few melanophores above; dorsal fin far back - the only U.S. species in which that fin begins above or only very slightly in front of anal fin; 11 to 14 (usually 12 to 13) pectoral fin rays; 23 to 31 (usually 24 to 29) anal fin rays. commonly known as Glaas Minnows by Tampa natives.

Size: Glass Minnows grow to 10 centimeters (4 inches).

Where found: in shallow bays and estuaries, but found in water up to 120 feet; common in brackish waters. Commonly found in large schools through out Tampa Bay. Are favorite snook, redfish, trout, tarpon, and just about anything that swims.

Tampa Bait Report. Good numbers of glass minnows have not yet arrived in Tampa Bay yet, but exspect large schools to start moving in by the end of the month.

 

Goggle Eye

 

big-eye-scad

Family Carangidae

Description: eye very large - diameter greater than snout length; no detached dorsal and anal finlets; two widely separated fleshly tabs on inside of rear edge of gill chamber; scutes present only on rear part of lateral line

Size: The goggle eye grows can grow up to 24 inches, but is usually found to be less than a foot in length.

Remarks: The google eye is mainly considered as an offshore bait used when bottom fishing for grouper, snapper and amber jack. 

 

Gulf Menhaden

 

gulf-menhaden

Family Clupeidae

Other local names: shad, pogies

Description: to 18" oval, deep and compressed; blue or green, sometimes bluish-brown above; sides and belly silvery, fins yellowish; distinct humeral spot often followed by several rows of smaller spots; head very large, exposed margin of scales almost vertical, fringed

Where found: near surface schools primarily in estuaries and nearshore waters of the northern Gulf from early spring through fall

Size: three-year-olds are 8 inches long and weigh more than 6 ounces

Remarks: sexual maturity begins at late age (1) with major spawning areas offshore across the northern Gulf

 

Gulf Shrimp

                                            baitpgshrimp

PINK SHRIMP

Tampa fishing- Tampa bait fish report. Tender and sweet, pink shrimp make up the majority of Florida’s wild-caught shrimp and are harvested in the Gulf and southern waters of Florida. Pink shrimp found in the southern Florida waters have light pink shells with a pearl-like texture and some have a distinguishing pink dot on the head. Those found along the northern Gulf coast may have lemon-yellow or brownish shells. When cooked, the shells turn a deeper shade of pink. The meat is white with pink skin tones, firm texture and mild flavor.

Florida pinks, or gulf shrimp as they are sometimes called, are the largest Gulf species and can reach 11 inches and can live up to 24 months. The peak harvest season is in the spring (March through May) and the fall (October through December) however they are available fresh and frozen year round. Their feeding ground in the clean coral sand off the west coast of Florida gives them their distinctive color and a sweet, creamy flavor that makes them a favorite with chefs and shrimp lovers world wide.

Gulf Shrimp are one of the top baits among Tampa anglers. Just about everthing that swims will feed on shrimp. For trout and redfish try hooking bait shrimp beneath a popping cork ; this rig is called the deadly combonatin,  works great on the grass flats. Free lined shrimp pitch in the mangroves often result in a nice snook. Fish bait shrimp with jig or 1/0 hook and piece of split shot around docks and bridges for sheepshead and pompano. Shrimp are used by Tampa anglers all year long, but during winter months when bait fish are scarce, Tampa bait shrimp become the primary source of live bait.

 Tampa Bait Shrimp Report. Good numbers of bait shrimp are being harvested around full moons on Dick Misner & Rattlesnake Pt. grass flats using dip net and lattern.

gulf_shrimp

               GULF SHRIMP

 

                                          

 

Leatherjacket

 

leatherjack

Family Carangidae

Description: body silvery, bluish above; fins yellow; rear parts of dorsal and anal fins consist of a series of finelts; spinous dorsal fin has 5 well-developed, unconnected spines; lateral line nearly straight; scales tiny, embedded; skin appears smooth

Size: to 30 centimeters (1 foot)

Where found: enters bays and estuaries, often in turbid water 

 

 

Pinfish

 

pinfish

Family Sparidae

Description: small mouth with incisor-like teeth; distinctive black spot behind the gill cover; body bluish-silver with blue and orange-yellow horizontal stripes, yellow fins

Where found: seagrass beds, bridges, piers, marker pilings, and around natural and artificial reefs; spawn offshore

Size: Pinfish usually don't exceed over 8 inches in lenght.

Remarks: popular live bait, notorious bait stealers, very hardy, pinfish make great baits for grouper, tarpon, snook, redfish and trout just to name a few.

Tampa Bait Report. Shamrock Inshore Fishing Charters reports plenty of pinfish on Tampa Bay grass flats and Sunshine Skyway Bridge!

pinfish2

                TAMPA BAY PINFISH

 

 

 

Round Scad

 

round-scad

Family Carangidae

Other local names: cigar minnow

Description: long, fusiform; greenish-blue fading to silver on sides, belly white; narrow, yellowish stripe from head to caudal peduncle

Where found: midwater or bottom from shallow water to about 50 fathoms, juveniles sometimes at surface

Size: to 12 inches

Remarks: 2 small papillae on shoulder distinguish scads from other carangids

 

Scaled Sardine

 

scaled-sardine

Family Clupeidae

Description: solid back with dark streaks, usually single small dark spot at upper edge of opercule and sometimes one at shoulder

Where found: North Gulf of Mexico to Brazil 

Size: up to 18"

Remarks: commonly caught with strings of wire loops

Tampa Bay Bait Report. Shamrock Fishing Charters report plenty of scaled sardines and threadfin herring around Tampa Bay bridges and bird racks. Which means, its Tarpon Time!

pilchard_2

             TAMPA BAY PILCHARD

 

Spanish Sardine

 

spanish-sardine

Family Clupeidae

Description:  tampa fishing- bait  fish report. Spanish Sardine- back bluish gray, sometimes greenish; sides silvery to brassy; slender body

Where found:  Located in schools ranging from North Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Commonly found in Tampa Bay waters around shipping channels and bay bridges. Abundant in Tampa Bay during spring and summer months often netted by anglers at Tampa's Skyway Bridge.


Size: up to 10 inches

Remarks: an abundant fish, representing a resource so far only utilized locally. Spanish sardidnes make great inshore bait, but are not as hardy as pilchards, threadfins or pinfish which are commonly fished inshore.

Tampa Spanish Sardine Report. Large numbers of  spanish sardines have not arrived in Tampa Bay yet, but exspect to see them by the zillions in weeks to come. Spanish Sardine update good number being caught on Tampa flats and bridges- 9/20/11.

 

Spottail Pinfish

 

spottail-pinfish

Family Sparidae

Description:  Tampa fishing- bait fish report. Spot tail pinfish-dark saddle on caudal peduncle sometimes forms a complete ring around peduncle in adults; eight faint bars on body, alternately long and short; more prominent in young; edge of opercular membrane blackish; pelvic and anal fins dusky brown, dorsal fin less dark

Size: to 46 centimeters (18 inches)

Where found: inshore seagrass beds, offshore wrecks a wrecks and reefs and structure.

Tampa Bat Report- Plenty of pinfish and spotted pinfish being netted at Tampa's Sunshine Skyway fishing peirs. For best results chum with jack mackerel or fish meal. heavy  10-12 ft. 3/4-1 in. net may be need to get to bottom on strong tides. 

spottail_pinfish2

             SPOTTAIL PINFISH

 

Striped (Black) Mullet

 

striped-mullet

Family Mugilidae

Description: Tampa fishing- bait fish report.  Tampa Striped mullet, color bluish-gray or green above, shading to silver on sides, with indistinct horizontal black barrings, white below; fins lightly scaled at base, unscaled above; blunt nose and small mouth; second dorsal fin originiates behind that of the anal

Similar fish: white mullet, M. curema; fantail mullet M. gyrans (both white and fantail mullet have black blotch at base of pectoral fin, which is lacking in the black mullet)

Where found: inshore along the beaches, flats and backcountry of Tampa Bay.

Size: roe mullet common to 3 pounds, but in aquariums known to reach 12 pounds or more

Remarks: adults migrate offshore in large schools to spawn; juveniles migrate inshore at about 1 inch in size, moving far up tidal creeks; frequent leapers; feeds on algae, detritus, and other tiny marine forms. Striped mullet are popular in Tampa Bay and make for excellent table fare when smoked. Striped mullet also are considered to be an excellent shark and redfish bait when cut in chunks.

 

ThreadFin Herring

 

atlantic-thread-herring

Family Clupeidae

Description: back dark blue/gray, sides silvery, belly white; small head. Also known in Tampa Bay as "Green Backs" or Threadfin Herring. Excellent all around baitfish, especially desireable among Tampa tarpon anglers.

Where found: in salt water from Cape Cod to Brazil, including Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.

Size: common in Tampa Bay up to 6 inches.

Remarks: has scales on ridge of back before dorsal fin.

Tampa Bait Report. Reporting good numbers of threadfin herring at Tampa's Sunshine skway Bridge. Also, plent of threadfin herring are being netted along St Pete birdracks and day markers.

             Threadfin Herring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowfin Menhaden

 

yellowfin-menhaden

Family Clupeidae

Description:   Found flipping on surface of Tampa waters. menhaden are silvery, with a greenish or bluish back; fins golden yellow; a single dark shoulder spot; scales on back noticeably smaller than those on sides and difficult to count - about 60-70 rows across middle of side; 27-30 (usually 28-290 ventral scutes. Menhaden oil and fish meal is a primary ingrediant in bait fish chum, used by Tampa anglers who castnet menhaden.

Size: to 32 centimeters (13 inches)

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