Cigar minnows, goggle eyes, and Spanish sardines seem to be on every piece of live bottom or artificial reef. In the past, we had to sometimes look for baitfish as we headed offshore. But this year has spoiled a number of us. The only time we worry about bait is when we can't find it!
Inshore, shrimp and mud minnows have been abundant at local tackle shops. Only on a particularly nice weekend, do they run out of live bait. Again, past summers saw some days where local shops were void of live bait.
Shrimp and mud minnows are caught and sold to the shops by local inshore bait fishermen. Offshore, the bait we use is the bait we can catch. We use Sabiki rigs, ten small mylar jigs on one line, to catch the live bait - the cigar minnows, sardines, and goggle eyes. When we think we have enough bait in our live well, the rule of thumb is to catch that many more. Nothing is worse than running out of live bait when a good bite is one.
For our kingfish bait, we use cast nets and find pogies (menhaden shad) along the outside of the breakers on the beach. Once again, when we think we have enough, we catch more. Pogies join the other bait on the list as being particularly abundant this year.
The shear size of the bait schools we encountered was overwhelming. Flipping on the surface and stacked all the way to the bottom seventy feet down, schools of cigar minnows and sardines often covered as much as an acre of water.
The past two years did not provide the amount of bait we have seen this year. One fisheries biologist I spoke with said that they were off years. On the other had, he indicated that this year is actually better than average regarding the amount of available bait.
What this translates to is essentially more fish. Bottom fish and pelagics alike will move with the bait. After all, they have to eat. A large number of sailfish and dolphin (Mahi Mahi) have been caught in water as close in as four miles and as shallow as fifty feet. These fish normally are found closer to the Gulfstream some forty to fifty miles offshore.
It has been a banner year for fishing. Let's hope it continues! Tell us your fishing experiences and reports on the Saltwater Fishing Forum.