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 Catching bait in Tampa Bay

Catching bait in Tampa Bay can be though at times and it one of the most talked about challenges at the dock. Every Tampa fishing charters starts with getting bait.  Every area is different and unique in it’s own way. Some areas use shrimp as a primary bait, and others use Pin fish and mullet. Tampa Bay provides both baits mentioned but our main bait would have to be Scalded Sardines (better known as Greenbacks). Here are some basics of catching bait in Tampa Bay!

The Basics of catching bait!

Just about every Tampa fishing charter starts with catching bait. As mentioned above every area of Florida is different, ours requires catching our own bait before a fishing charter with a cast net. This  is very unique and most customers love the experience. Depending on the time of year will dictate what area of Tampa Bay we go to catch it. This will also dictate what size net we throw and technique. This time of year bait is on just about every grass flat on the back country. Bait is plentiful throughout the summer but runs smaller so this requires a smaller mesh net. (mesh is the size of holes in the net)


I love to use the 12 foot 1/4 inch mesh Black Pearl Cast net. When catching bait on the flats you will be throwing a lot of throws to fill the well up; the key is to chum the bait to you. It’s always easier to bring fish to you rather than chasing them. There are a bunch of different types of chum I like to use:Purina 45 dry chum is as simple as it comes and can be bought at any feed store. Mix this with a little water to make it like (wet sand) and you are ready to catch bait.

Where to go in Tampa Bay for bait

As mentioned we catch bait just about year round but the techniques and areas change. As we go into the fall bait will move from the shallow water to the middle of the bay. Tampa Bay has a bunch of markers and towers that provide structure that the bait will use as a safe area from predator fish. These areas range from 15 to 25 feet deep so using a heavier weighted net and bigger mesh is required. A 10 to 12 foot net with 3/8 mesh will do the trick when cast netting bait in deeper water. When looking for the right cast net  make sure and choose a net for deeper water. This needs to have the adequate weight, 1.6 to 1.8 lbs per foot should be a good weight when choosing a net for deeper water.

Throwing a cast net in Tampa Bay

Last step to catching bait would have to be actually learning how to throw the net correctly. There are a bunch of different ways to throw a cast net. Most work and  use the same principles. My recommendation would be to purchase a video on how to throw a cast net. There are a bunch out there online. One that comes to mind is local and is sold at Tampa Fishing Outfitters. With little practice you will be throwing pancakes every time. If you are looking to get out on a Tampa fishing charters we would be glad to give instructions on throwing a net in addition to the fishing charter. Tight lines.