Captain’s Corner: Tips on handling burgeoning baitfish

Published May 11 2018
Updated May 12 2018

Schools of baitfish have arrived and taken up residence in all depths. Birds are diving on them close to the beach, all the way out to the midwater artificial reefs. Farther offshore, bait schools might not be visible on the surface but can be detected by use of sonar. Having a fly bridge boat has given me a chance to observe different schools. Almost every concentration of bait will have its attendant predators. Close to the beach usually means Spanish mackerel, blue runners and various species of sharks. Farther offshore we find bait being ravaged by Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonita and the ever-present blue runners. In deeper water barracuda and the occasional blackfin tuna along with the other species will be found. Baitfish are schooled up in two ways. One is in a roughly circular pattern, which indicates they’ve taken up residence to feed on organisms near structure that cause upwelling currents. These are the schools we prefer to target. The other is a banana-shaped school. This indicates a school is on the move, looking for a structure to take up residence. We usually don’t target them because the most common predator of these schools are blue runners. Pelican behavior often indicates what size spoon to start out with if employing hardware. If the pelicans are diving from a height, they’re targeting large baits. When they’re targeting smaller baits, they simply flop over and appear to almost fall into the bait school.

Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.