In the summer, baitfish normally can be found in or close to the surf break along the beaches. They include menhaden shad and mullet, and when they are present, they are easy to catch with a good eight to ten foot radius cast net. In the Intracoastal Waterway or the creeks, a smaller cast net is required, and we catch smaller mullet, mud minnows, and shrimp.
Once we head out and the water is deeper than fifteen or twenty feet, a cast net is essentially useless. It can’t sink fast enough to capture the bait before they swim out from under it. I have watched many a novice throw a five-foot cast net over a school of bait swimming in ninety feet of water. It simply will not work!
In the deeper water we use a Sabiki rig. Made by a number of companies, they consist of a six-foot length of monofilament to which is tied six to eight branches of line with a very small hook on the end. These hooks, from a number 4 to a number 10, have a small piece of tough Mylar tied to them and they do well imitating small shrimp or fish.
As I said, a number of tackle companies offer these rigs. The one I have been most successful with over the last year has been the Daiichi “Bleeding Hook” brand. It is made the same as other brands, except it uses their trademark red hooks. Even as small as they are, these hooks are extremely sharp, and the red color catches more bait than other rigs. I proved it myself several times over this past year.
While two of us catch the bait, the third and fourth angler removes the bait from the hooks and tosses them into the live well or if a bit too damaged into the bait box. It is a well-orchestrated affair that consumes less time than all four anglers catching bait. With the Daiichi Bleeding Hook rigs I would invariably come up with six or baitfish – on eon every hook – while my partner brought up two or three. We even traded rods to see if it was the Daiichi rigs or me. Much as I want to say it was me – it was not. Those red hooks won out. In fact, I have even moved to the bleeding hooks for most all of my terminal tackle. Simply put - they work.
Cast nets can run well over a hundred dollars for a large one, and around fifty for a small one. Bait rigs run around three bucks apiece. While the cast nets can be used for years if you care for them properly, the bait rigs are only good for one trip. The hassle of trying to wind up eight very small, very sharp hooks without tangling them is not worth the fight in my book. Someone needs to come up with a way to store them for use again another day!
Even with the initial costs, if you fish a lot, catching your own bait is far more cost effective in the long run. If you only fish occasionally, buying your bait is obviously cheaper. The problem is a lot of the bait we catch is unavailable in tackle shops.
Heck, it’s actually fun to catch your own bait. On a recent trip that netted only a handful of fish, my party told his wife we had caught over a hundred fish. I was puzzled until I realized he was including the bait! He had as much fun catching the bait as he did anything else!
The Right Bait By Ron Brooks, on Saltfishing.About.com