My favorite bait "shop" is the South County artificial reef.
Every bait imaginable often can be obtained there with the use of various sized sabiki rigs, usually a No. 8, sometimes a larger one when targeting blue runners to be used for amberjack or barracuda bait.
I prefer to catch Spanish sardines, cigar minnows, threadfins, pinfish and blue runners from a stationary position (drifting also works). This can be accomplished by tying off the mooring buoy just east of the artificial reef buoy or anchoring and placing the boat over some of the structure to the west of the buoy. The mooring buoy is attached to the tug Orange, which was sunk last year and has become the home to baitfish and a large population of Goliath grouper and mangrove snapper. Pelagics such as kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia and barracuda also call the Orange home. The structure to the west of the marker consists of a large pile of concrete with several satellite piles of rubble around the main structure; pelagics also are found there.
On a recent trip we stopped for bait and deployed flat lines with stinger rigs, each using bait caught onsite. Kingfish, barracuda and bonita were caught during the time spent catching bait while attached to the mooring buoy. The key to success was the deployment of a bag of frozen chum. We also cut less desirable bait such as reef grunts into small slivers and periodically added them to the chum.
- Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at 727 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com