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Home / Fishing / Fish Species


The Bait Fishes

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Bigeye Scad

Round Scad

Redtail Scad

Atlantic Menhaden

Scaled Sardine

Atlantic Thread Herring

Spanish Sardine

Bay Anchovy

Just what makes a fish a baitfish? Basically, any fish need only be born to become one. At one time or another, a fisherman might use just about any species of fish as bait for some larger kind.

This page, however, will be concerned with sorting out the various species of small, silvery, usually schooled up, fishes that the Florida angling community seldom thinks of as anything except bait. Using that criterion, we have taken the liberty of lumping together under this heading several baitfishes that, scientifically, should be listed with different families, the Scads, for instance, which are Jacks. By the opposite token, this section does not include many species which, while routinely used for bait, are also widely sought for fun food. Among those must be counted not only such popular panfish as Grunts and Pinfish, but even a few highly regarded gamefish, like Mackerel and Bonito.

Back To The Fish Species Directory Index

Fish Species brought to you in association with Wickstrom Publishers Inc.
Excerpts from the book Sport Fish of Florida a must for every tackle box and boat in and around Florida waters!!! Get your copy now!! Other great titles include Baits, Rigs & Tackle!

BALLYHOO (Hemiramphus brasiliensis)

Ballyhoo - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: 'Hoo, Halfbeak
RANGE: All Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Most common around reefs and shoalsk, but widespread from deep water to larger bays.
DESCRIPTION: Ballyhoo differ from the Needlefishes in that only the lower jaw of the 'Hoo is elongated into a "bill." Several species occur in our waters, but only two are prominent. Their ranges overlap and their appearance is so similar that few anglers care about distinguishing them. The ballyhoo, shown here, has a short pectoral fin and the upper lobe of its tail fin is gray. The Balao, Hemiramphus balao, has a long pectoral fin and the upper lobe of the tail is reddish.
SIZE: Both species average 10-12 inches, but commonly reach 15 or 16 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Not bad, but seldom eaten.
GAME QUALITIES: Cagey biters and zippy little fighters, but too small to merit attention except when bait is needed.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Ballyhoo respond readily to ground chum. Although cast netting is the way to capture more of them, they can be caught with tiny hooks and small bits of cut bait, fished from spinning outfits or poles.

BIGEYE SCAD "GOGGLE-EYE" (Selar crumenophthalmus)

Bigeye Scad - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Gog, Goggle-eye Jack
RANGE: All Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Reefs and other outside waters; also in and near inlets. May also enter larger bays and river mouths.
DESCRIPTION: Elongated, cylindrical body with forked tail. Scutes forward of tail. Color is steel blue above and on the sides; silvery below. Very large eyes.
SIZE: Less than one foot.
FOOD VALUE: Good, but usually used for bait.
GAME QUALITIES: Like the rest of the Jack family, of which Scad are members, it is a great fighter for its size.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Most Goggle-eyes are caught at night, either deliberately as potential bait, or accidentally while chumming and bottom fishing. In either case, light spinning tackle is generally used. Bait fishermen tempt their Goggle-eyes with small jigs, often tied in tandem or series.

ROUND SCAD "CIGAR MINNOW" (Decapterus punctatus)

Round Scad - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Hardtail, Cigarfish, Chuparaco
RANGE: All Florida coasts, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Large schools are widespread in the Gulf and Atlantic, from near the beaches to well offshore.
DESCRIPTION: As the name suggests, the body is cigar-shaped. The tail is forked and scutes are present. Small black spots are present along the lateral line. Color is dull gray or tan with whitist underside.
SIZE: Under a foot; averages 6-8 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Used as bait, not food.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Although anglers purchase most of their Cigar Minnows in fresh or frozen state, they can be caught on bait rigs, a series of tiny hooks that are sometimes dressed with nylon filaments, although Glass Minnows will just as readily take the plain hooks. This rig can be purchased at tackle shops or put together by the angler. A sinker is fixed to the end of the string of hooks. A stout rod and fairly heavy line will make things easier, since no sport is involved, and since the sinker may have to be rather heavy, depending on the depth at which the Cigar Minnows, spotted by sonar, are hanging.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

REDTAIL SCAD "SPEEDO" (Decapterus tabl)

Redtail Scad - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

RANGE: All Florida coasts, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
HABITAT: Widespread on both coats. Very commonly seen in chumlines in Southeast Florida and the Keys.
DESCRIPTION: Cigar shaped. Scutes are present and tail fin is vivid red.
SIZE: Larger than Cigar Minnow; averages 12-14 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Edible but seldom put on the table.
GAME QUALITIES: Often a challenge to hook up, but no great shakes as a fighter because of small size.
TACKLE AND BAITS: To catch Speedos as bait for King Mackerel and other gamefish, try your lightest spinning outfit with hair hook and bits of ground chum as bait. If any is available, canned corn may be the best bait of all.

ATLANTIC MENHADEN (Brevoortia tyrannus)

Atlantic Menhaden

OTHER NAMES: Pogy, Mossbunker, Bunker, Alewife, LY, Fatback, Shad
RANGE: All Florida coasts.
HABITAT: All the Menhadens range widely in open water of the Gulf and Atlantic, but are most often sought by anglers fairly close to the beaches, or around shoals and wrecks.
DESCRIPTION: Three species of Menhaden are common in Florida, but all are similar in size and appearance, and interchangeable in their bait appeal. The Atlantic Menhaden, shown here, is slightly larger than its Gulfside counterparts, the Gulf Menhaden, Brevoortia patronus, and the Yellowfin Menhaden, Brevortia smithi. The latter two can be distinguished by their spots, a lone prominent spot behind the gill cover of the Yellowfin, as opposed to a large spot and a series of smaller ones on the Gulf Menaden. The Atlantic variety also has numerous spots. All three have dark greenish backs, yellowish fins and dull silver or brassy sides.
SIZE: To about 12 inches. The average is about 8 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Very oily. Best used for bait and for sliced or ground chum.
GAME QUALITIES: The Menhadens are very strong and active for their size, which makes them ideal as bait for fast-swimming gamefish. They fight well on very light spinning tackle.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Most are cast needed, but many are caught on spinning tackle with multi-hook bait rigs.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

SCALED SARDINE "PILCHARD" (Harengula jaguana)

Scaled Sardine - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Whitebait, Sardina
RANGE: Florida and Bahamas.
HABITAT: Roams widely in both shallow and deep water of both coasts. Bait-seekers look for them inshore on grassy flats and around bridges. Offshore, they frequently congregate near navigation markers, wrecks and reefs.
DESCRIPTION: Again, we have several similar species that most anglers make little or no attempt to differentiate, and which are known by various common names, mostly regional. Actually, it would be a surprise to find a listing under the name "Pilchard" in scientific books. The Scaled Sardine is the one most widely called "Pilchard," at least on the East Coast. The same fish (with some others) is usually called "Whitebait" in the Gulf. Color is usually brassy above and solid silver on sides. Small black spot may be present on the gill cover. The similar Redear Sardine, arengula humeralis, and False Pilchard, Harengula clupeola, occur in South Florida but are less common. Both have an orange spot on the gill cover, but the False Pilchard is solid, whereas the Redear Sardine shows dark broken streaks on the upper sides.
SIZE: Averages 3-6 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Insignificant.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Most are cast netted, but they can also be caught with either multi-hook bait rigs, or with "Pilchard rings", a series of small, interlocking rings fashioned of leader wire. Both rigs are sold in bait shops in areas where they are popular. If the Pilchards are present but not densely packed, they are first chummed up with grain, such as oatmeal, and then the bait rigs or Pilchard rings are lowered into the school. The Pilchards either strike the hooks or swim into the rings, which trap them.

ATLANTIC THREAD HERRING (Opisthonema ogliman)

Atlantic Thread Herring - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Greenie, Greenback, Shiner, Thread, Machuelo
RANGE: Widespread in Florida.
HABITAT: Both inshore and offshore waters.
DESCRIPTION: Similar to the Pilchard but with a deeper body and larger eye. Also easily distinguished by the elongated, threadlike posterior ray of the dorsal fin. Dark spot behind gill cover.
SIZE: Averages 4-6 inches; maximum about 12 inches.
FOOD VALUE: Seldom eaten.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Usually caught in cast nets, but also on multi-hook bait rigs.

SPANISH SARDINE (Sardinella aurita)

Spanish Sardine - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Sardine, Shiner, Herring
RANGE: Widespread, all areas.
HABITAT: Common on inshore flats, but occurs in deep water too.
DESCRIPTION: Both the Spanish Sardine, shown here, and the Orangespot Sardine, Sardinella brasiliensis, aremore elongaed and less flattened than other Herrings. Silver sides and green back. Spanish has no markings, whereas Orangespot has a gold or light orange streak on the side.
SIZE: Averages 2-4 inches; reaches 10 inches on so. Orange Sardine usually is smaller than the Spanish.
FOOD VALUE: Good, but seldom eaten.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Will respond to chum and can then be cast netted or taken on tiny hooks.

BAY ANCHOVY "GLASS MINNOW" (Anchoa mitchilli)

Bay Anchovy - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Fry, Bigmouth Fry, Anchoa
RANGE: Anchovies of several species are found throughout Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean, any or all of which may constitute the blocks of frozen Glass Minnows available in bait stores for use as chum or, sometimes, as bait.
HABITAT: Most are found in shallow water and along shorelines, but some occur for offshore.
DESCRIPTION: Glass minnows are those little, transparent fish that can be seen just about anywhere in salt water, often in dense schools. The great majority of them are the Bay Anchovy, shown here, or the Striped Anchovy, Anchoa hepsetus, or the Cuban Anchovy, Anchoa cubana, although some schools of Glass Minnows might be a potpourri of species including, among others, tiny Herrings and even embryonic gamefishes. The Anchovies are characterized by a tiny underslung mouth.
SIZE: Average is 1 or 2 inches. None are likely to exceed 3 or 4 inches.
FOOD VALUE: As with canned Anchovies, edible but debatable.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Beach seines; dip nets; cast nets.

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