Let's talk bait....
When it comes to live bait fishing, every angler has his preference. Some prefer the appeal of a juicy threadfin herring. Some prefer the flash and fish ability of a pilchard. Others say there’s simply no substitute for the distress signals sent out by a live finger mullet dangling from the end of a light-wire circle hook.
But, if you asked every live bait fisherman you know which bait they consider to be the most versatile, no bait would rate higher than the ubiquitous live shrimp. Put simply, nearly everything that swims in Florida waters eats shrimp. So, if you’re looking for a live bait that will catch fish year ‘round no matter where you fish, a twitching, live shrimp is the choice for you.
Although most Floridians associate shrimp with deep water trawlers that spend weeks at sea dredging sandy bottom areas of the Gulf of Mexico in search of what some might call Florida Gold, the shrimp we as anglers most often end up lacing onto our hooks are actually harvested in the shallow bays and estuarine systems along Florida’s east and west coasts.
Much like the trawling systems used to harvest shrimp in offshore waters, nets used to gather shrimp in coastal areas are designed to dredge the bottom and capture the crustaceans as they flee. However, unlike offshore dredges which are actually designed to loosen bottom sediments, inshore shrimp trawls have roller systems which allow the net to drag the bottom without having a significant impact on sensitive sea grass beds.
Within the boundaries of these fragile ecosystems, post-larval and juvenile shrimp spend the formative portions of their life cycles burrowing in soft sand, mud and sea grass attempting to elude a wide variety of persistent predators. Concealing themselves primarily during daylight hours, these tiny crustaceans emerge from their lairs under the cloak of darkness to feed on algae and micro-fauna found near mangrove shorelines and marshy edges that border these natural nurseries.
FYI....Nearly 80 percent of the states intake of sweet Atlantic white shrimp is harvested in Amelia Island waters. Two million pounds of shrimp are delivered to Fernandina docks annually.
And my favorite live shrimp are caught by a man named Wade in a small boat working the lower Nassau county area, and delivered to B&M bait and tackle.
During a day's fishing I'll pin my shrimp on the hook basically two ways, depending on what I'm doing. Float-rig fishing, there's only one way of doing it right, and one way only in my book.
And that's pinning the shrimp on to the hook right behind it's "horn". This way, the shrimp stays alive, swimming and kicking. And if not cast a lot, can live and remain relatively "frisky" for awhile.
This photo is somewhat inaccurate, I'd pin the hook up closer to where the "horn" meets the base of the "carapace", or head shell. Just under and through the hardest part of the entire shrimps body. Thus giving it an ear piercing of sorts.
For bottom fishing in heavy current, now this is where I have a "trick".
Shrimp in nature, do not spin. So a spinning shrimp in our river's current isn't a good thing.
What I do is "cut" the very end of the shrimps tail off. I call it the "fan". By doing this you are not ripping or tearing the shrimp. I take a hook that's sized for the shrimp I'm using and thread the hook into the end of the shrimps tail. As if you are threading on a "rubber worm" on a hook.
When I reach into half of the length of the shrimps body. I exit the hook through the shrimps underside. Now this is where some skill comes in.....I then "bend" the shrimp and "spin" the hook point around the opposite direction, and pin it back into the shrimp's "walking legs".
Thus forcing the entire shrimp to be held straight, and not spin once in the water's heavy current.
The "bend" and "spin" of the hook and shrimp now forces pressure the opposite way the shrimps body naturally wants to bend. Which is why shrimp will "curve up" on a hooks bend, and spin in the water, when bottom fished.
And most importantly has a fish like a Sheepshead especially, having to eat the entire hook to get to the shrimp's tail meat. Which is what all fish want. I can't begin to tell you how many throat hooked Sheepshead I have caught because of this technique. They don't nibble, they take the whole thing laying on the bottom, "not" spinning!
Hooking in any other manner usually leaves room for a fish to grab and bite off the shrimp. It happens with nibbler fish even with my system too, but not nearly as much as just digging the hook in anywhere you feel like.
Presentation, presentation, presentation, can be the key to success many times. And if it's made correctly, and habitual you'll never have to worry. Because it was done right the first time. Details matter to me. They may not matter to my customers, but I feel that's why they are hiring me. Because I know all the details. If they choose not to follow along, well that's their own fault then.