Here's some general information on bay baits. The availability of specific baits will vary as will price ranges. Notice the colorful flags flying at bait shops. Each color represents a different type of bait. Generally, white means shrimp and yellow means live croaker. Beyond that, the colors may not be standardized, but usually the type of bait is printed boldly on the flag.
Below is a guide to which baits work best for different fish species. Your success may vary.
White Shrimp — Generally available at bait shops from August through November. Excellent for trout, redfish, black drum, gray snapper and flounder. Down side - during warmer months live shrimp also attract hardheads, perch and a variety of other bait stealers.
Croaker — Available May into September, when bait trawlers are allowed to take 1,500 croaker each day. Excellent live bait for trout, redfish and flounder. Down side - expensive and difficult to keep alive.
Pink shrimp or hoppers — Usually are available in spring. Keep a lid on these, otherwise they'll jump out of the bucket. Excellent for trout, redfish, black drum, gray snapper and flounder. Down side - during warmer months live shrimp also attract hardheads, perch and a variety of other bait stealers.
Brown Shrimp — Availability usually peaks during May into July. Bait quality equal to other shrimp.
Piggy Perch — Available July through late October. Bait quality about the same as croaker and sometimes a little cheaper. Down side - Generally not considered a good surf-fishing bait.
Pin Perch — Generally available spring, summer and fall. Good redfish bait, live or cut. A favorite of sail-liners.
Finger Mullet — Generally available spring, summer and fall. Excellent redfish bait, live or cut. Smaller ones make good live bait for trout and flounder. Illegal to possess mullet 12 inch or larger from October 1 through January.
Mud Minnows — Available year-round but more likely to find in spring summer and fall. Good live bait for flounder and larger mangrove snapper.
Mantis shrimp (aka sea lice) — Limited availability at bait shops January through March. Excellent bait for big black drum and redfish, dead or alive.
Blue crab — Available year-round. Must measure five inches across, from point to point, with this exception: Not more than 5 % of your bait crabs may be undersized and they must be kept in a separate container. You may not possess egg-bearing crabs, or a female crab with its abdominal apron removed. Excellent bait for big drum and redfish.
Ghost shrimp — Mostly used for sheepshead, and not available in bait shops. Several cylinder/pump devices are sold to suck them out of the sand, near the water’s edge on beaches. Daily bag/possession is 20.
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