Spring is in the air, even in the subtropics of Florida. Although we’ve seen warm temperatures and sunny skies all season, we know spring is here because of the baitfish that appear. And since fishing is what we do in Florida, we’re looking at the water (not the trees) for signs of spring. If you’re confused about what bait to use, this is your quick guide for Terra Ceia Bay. 

Whether you’re figuring out how to find baitfishhook live bait, or stop bait robbers, there’s a lot to learn. These small fish are the requirement for catching big fish, and we don’t recommend leaving shore without them. Because there are numerous choices to consider when catching various species, we’ll cover three types of bait to use for fishing here in Tampa Bay. 


Shrimp are the “magic bait.” That’s because everything eats shrimp. A tasty shrimp is unavoidable to a hungry passer-by regardless of your species. Whether you peel them, swallow them whole, or want to take a gander, fresh, dead, or frozen shrimp will send the senses soaring. And the fish are no different. 

If you’re into catching shrimp yourself, you’re lucky because this is the shrimping season. A simple dip net will do the trick, but you can get fancy with traps or even catch them by line if you’re up for the challenge. Most fishing retailers sell shrimp for as long as they last. Prices will vary based on availability and location. Buying your bait closest to your fishing location will be the key to keeping them lively. 

Once you have your shrimp in hand, there are several ways to hook them, so we suggest watching this video


Pinfish are a local favorite for their plump delectability and their success at catching bigger fish. But it’s not without trial and tribulation that a pinfish ends up on your line. It would be best to either site cast for them with a cast net or catch them by line and reel with a sabiki. They can sometimes be purchased at a local shop, but it’s hit or miss whether they’ll be in. Once you get your hands on them, they’re sure to prick you at least once, if not numerous times. They, thankfully, aren’t harmful, just a little hurtful, and well worth the pain. 


These small fish can be found in swirling schools throughout the bay as the waters warm. They can be as big as four to six inches long and are used for catching some of our larger inshore gamefish. Known as the “go-to” bait or serious anglers, you’ll find them spring through fall. You can catch them with a cast net or by hook and line. You can also buy them frozen at most local shops. You’ll find them for sale live on a rare occasion, so take advantage of it when you see them. 

Knowing your bait and how to use it will add tremendous value to your fishing ventures, whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the fishing scene. If you’re only here for a short while and wish to skip the learning curve, join our Saturday morning clinics, or hire a pro to handle the details. For those living locally and looking for an excellent spot to collect your bait, rumor has it there’s a bait ship headed our way ready to provide all your fishing needs. Subscribe above and stay tuned for more detail! 

We look forward to seeing you and your bait, catching fish on our dock soon.


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