Similar to menhaden, cast-netting is the quickest way to produce the most mullet baits as well. Targeting them is especially popular during the massive mullet run along the south Atlantic Coast. From September through November, mullet of all sizes push out of coastal rivers and bays and migrate south near beaches and the Intracoastal Waterway by the millions. During this time, they become an abundant, free-to-catch bait for cast-net anglers.
Ballyhoo, Herring, Pilchards, Sardines, Pinfish, and Other Baitfish
Many marine baitfish species can be attracted with ground fish, cat food, and meal concoctions, and then cast-netted. This can be highly productive for gathering herring, pilchards, shad, sardines, and pinfish. Other baitfish species, such as ballyhoo—a popular live bait in South Florida for sailfish, dolphin, and other pelagic species—also lend themselves to cast-netting this way.
If cast-netting isn’t an option, several anglers working together with hook and line can catch good numbers of baitfish in a short time. Most baits (including cigar minnows, hardtails or scad, pinfish, small blue runners, and others) are readily caught using sabiki rigs—a tandem series of small hooks dressed with colorful strips of iridescent material.
Multiple hooks baited with shrimp, fitted to a leader, and taken deep with a simple lead weight also work well for catching baitfish when jigged over reefs, wrecks, and around oil-and-gas rig structures. Use boat sonar to help pinpoint deep bait pods, and make sure to use stout tackle to avoid getting them taken by predator fish.
Umbrella-style lift nets are also productive, especially off docks and bridges at night, where lights can be used to attract baitfish.