Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - June 30, 2014

Sysadmin Note
Part 4 can be found here


If you fish the saltwater then you are very familiar with what bait minnows are in season and where they should be found. Furthermore the savvy saltwater angler learns about the baitfish that the gamefish feed on, how they swim, at what depth of the water column they are generally found and if they school or are found as singles. In this column we will discuss four of the minnows that I have found to be effective in Florida and patterns that I use to imitate them. I will list the scientific name for each baitfish that I cover, just like in trout fishing where a single Mayfly can be known by several different common names the same is true with baitfish minnow they all have several different names depending on the part of the country you are from.


Pinfish [Lagodon chomboides] are also called shiners, sailor's choice, porgy, scup. They grow to fourteen inches and are edible but are seldom eaten; however as bait the pinfish are also excellent. The juvenile pinfish of one inch to four inches can be found in large numbers in shallow coastal waters and estuaries and can be especially heavy around grass flats. Pinfish are primarily a non-schooling fish but can be found in loose groups on the grass flats and around the dock. They feed on fish eggs, shrimp, crabs, various worm and plant matter. They are in turn eaten by tarpon, snook, redfish, sea trout (Spec's), Jack's and many others. Oh by the way they also care caught be fly angler especially on shrimp and crab patterns.

One evening I spotted a large number of Pinfish off one of the docks and I used a small shrimp and popping bugs and had a good time using a four weight on these scrappy baitfish until a larger snook came along and ate my fly, I was using a light tippet which finally gave way as I was wondered how long it was going to take me to land what appeared to be a twenty five inch or so snook.

Now I don't recommend using a four weight as a matter of course, but I admit that I do carry one with me and use it in special situations.


The Mullet is without a doubt the most well known of all the baitfish as there are 80 species of mullet throughout the world and the Stripped Mullet alone is found in two thirds of the oceans and coast lines worldwide. The Striped Mullet [Mugil cephalus] is also called black mullet, bright mullet, bully mullet, callifaver mullet, flathead grey mullet, common mullet, mangrove mullet, river mullet and other names which I haven't recorded. 

Though there are other species of mullet in Florida the striped mullet is the most common and abundant mullet found in the waters of Florida.

As a side note; for those of you who can throw a cast net or wish to learn these prized fish are easily caught. There are many instructions on how to throw a cast net on the Internet. Mullet are very edible and the roe is highly prized. I know that several have tried to catch them on flies but nothing I have found seems to work consistently. Possibly someone will solve the problem and the anglers will have another hard fighting gamefish to tackle. The few that I have hooked on flies have fought very well and are very strong and they jump so what could be better.

The Stripped Mullet lives for up to sixteen years and the largest reported striped mullet was forty seven inches long and weighed seventeen and half pounds; this is according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Often angler are fooled into thinking the fish are feeding on something else when they notice the schools of larger mullet and the schools of small silvery fish and they too are mullet only they are juveniles. 

The Mullet spawn off shore during the early winter and during the migration of the schools to the spawning ground they are heavily preyed upon by everything in the ocean. Once the eggs hatch the larva move inshore when they reach ½ to ¾ of inch and are silver in color, the young juveniles spend most of their time in the shallow waters of the coastal rivers, estuaries where move into the grass flats and among the mangroves where they feed on plankton and algae they mature to spawn in their third year therefore mullet are always in the system and available to the game fish.

Mullet will move upstream into brackish water and even into freshwater. Here I might note that the best eating mullet are caught in the saltwater the ones that are taken in the freshwater in my area have an undesired taste. Beside people, just about everything in the saltwater feeds on this abundant baitfish!   


The Atlantic Menhaden [Brevoortia tyrannus] is a member of the Herring Family and are possibly the most important baitfish found on the Atlantic coastline. Why is this baitfish so important because they are very important to the health of the Striped Bass populations and that they are filter feeders, they feed on plankton and care filter up to four gallons of water a minute as the feed and are a natural check to red tides.

Atlantic Menhaden are also called alewife, bug fish, bug mouth, bunker, fatback, moss bunker, pogy and are misidentified as shad and sardines. They run in large schools and though they are classed as a baitfish with no food value to humans. I found this to be historically false as early Americans ate them fried and many would eat "Fried Pogies for breakfast".   

Menhaden are silvery with small black spots behind the gills plates along the body and they range in size from three to ten inches with the record being sixteen and half inches in length. The young menhaden live in the Inlets, coastal rivers and estuaries and move up the brackish water rivers for the summer and in the fall they run to the ocean. This baitfish is preyed upon by Stripers, Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, Sea Trout, Snook, Redfish and Tarpon plus many others.

Here in Florida we have another species of Menhaden the Yellowfin Menhaden [Brevoortia smithi], the only difference is the yellow hue on the fins.


Atlantic Needlefish [Stronylura marina] they range in size 1.2 inches to 37 inches, they are silvery in color with Pale Green Iridescent hue to the back and they will congregate in small school and will feed on shrimp and small minnows.

They have long slender bills with the upper and lower beaks that are full of sharp little teeth. They can be found in shore line and coastal rivers, bays, estuaries and will even move up brackish rivers and live three to six years.

Tarpon, Strippers, Bluefish, Larger Jack's and Sea Trout feed on needlefish. The fly angler often catches needlefish as they will hit anything that they think they can eat.

Now I will cover the patterns that I use to imitate these baitfish now let me explain these are just the patterns that I use and there are thousands of patterns out there that are effective besides the one that I use.

Atlantic Menhaden Minnow

Atlantic Needlefish Minnow

Mullet Minnow Streamer

Pinfish Minnow

These patterns almost never work, but you must admit that they sure are cute!

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 6 can be found here


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