Would you believe the favorite inshore bait and more commonly known as Pilchard, Whitebait or Greenback?
The scaled sardines, pilchard, greenbacks, whitebait, snook candy or the scientific name: Harengula Jaguana is found from the coastal waters of the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico down to Brazil. This fast growing scaled sardine is a pelagic schooling fish averaging 4 to 6 inches and making excellent bait for most Florida species. A herring like fish it has a dark back, silver sides and white belly. This spring through fall “go-to” bait is the choice for serious live bait anglers. Usually caught with a cast net; some anglers use “Sabiki rigs”.
Early spring they start showing up around bridges and buoys and as the waters warm they move onto shallow grass flats. When searching the flats, experienced anglers look for raindrop like tinkling on the surface with an occasional flip. Once you’ve seen the first time, it will become more recognizable in the future. Experienced netters also know that chumming draws them within net throwing range. What kind of chum do you use to attract them?
Chum: Chum is chum right, not necessarily. Ask any live bait netter, and you’ll never get the same answer. Typically everyone invents their own concoction; with several requiring some fancy mixing using a variety of ingredients like; sand, oatmeal, rice, macaroni, dog food, cat food, sardines, fish oil, anise, soybeans, cornmeal, and bread. However, probably the number one ingredient for any chum is fish oil. Not just any oil, but the stomach-turning stinky stuff called menhaden oil. This is without a doubt the most awful stuff you will ever put your hands in and if you get it on your clothing, forget it, because it never comes out.
A Simple Two-ingredient Mixture, that works every time. It’s a combination of powdered commercial fish meal or tropical fish food and menhaden oil. Fish meals are available at most bait and tackle stores and larger agricultural feed stores, but if buying from a feed store it only comes in 45 to 50 pound bags. If buying in bulk, I suggest storing it in air tight containers; I use two five gallon buckets with tight fitting lids.
Getting Ready to Get Bait: In a ½ gallon bucket mix 8 cups of fish meal with two-cups, of that great smelling, menhaden oil. If it’s too thick, thin it by gradually adding saltwater and you are ready to start chumming. Some anglers will add a can or two of jack mackerel for good measure, but keep in mind; this will also attract pinfish and catfish. Setup near the bait and begin tossing small amounts in their direction. The mixture should disperse, sink slowly and create a fine oil slick on the water.
Cast Net: In general, a 1/4 to 3/8 inch, lightweight net works great on the flats, because the lighter weight pulls less grass and is easier to throw. A heavier 3/8 to 1/2 inch net is normally required around deeper structure and bridges, especially those with strong currents.
What’s a Scaled Sardine – What’s a Threadfin Herring: A question often asked is what is the difference between a pilchard and a threadfin? It is not hard to distinguish one from the other once seen side-by-side.
A scaled sardine, has a slightly larger head and eye, predominately-sharper belly, no ray from dorsal fin, olive to dark green back, silver sides and belly and a faint dark spot on the upper gill plate.
The threadfin is distinguishable at a glance by the prolonged last ray of its dorsal fin. With a bluish-black back, silver sides and belly. Their scales along the back have dark centers, and there is a dark spot just behind the upper gill plate cover. This predominate difference is the dorsal fin ray.
In closing, many of our local tackle retailers carry fish food, jack mackerel and menhaden oil and just about everything else you need in the way of tackle, bait and riggings. Moreover, unlike larger discount or sports stores, if they do not have what you are looking for they will get it for you. They are also a great place to get current fishing reports, information and recommendations on tackle, or if you just want to talk fishing, someone is usually around to spin a yarn or two. Stop in and visit your local tackle dealer soon.
“Give Me a Call & Let’s Go Fishing” Captain Woody Gore is the areas top outdoor fishing guide. He is also an outdoor writer, photojournalist, and speaker. Woody has guided the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Bradenton, and Sarasota areas for over fifty years, and offers memorable fishing adventures.
Single or multi-boat charters for larger parties are all the same. Tell me what you need and leave the rest to me. Woody’s website is located at: WWW.CAPTAINWOODYGORE.COM or give him a call at 813-477-3814