Pinfish make ideal bait for a wide variety of local species. Found grazing by the thousands throughout the shallow inshore waters, they’re often very easy to catch From spring to late fall large concentrations of pinfish inhabit just about every sea grass bed, bridge, pier, natural and artificial reef along both sides of the State. In the Gulf, you’ll also find pinfish actively foraging in the surf.
Pinfish, scientifically known as Lagodon rhomboids are notorious bait stealers. They’re extremely fast and have a small mouth lined with incisor-like teeth. Members of the porgy family, they’re often a nuisance when targeting more sought after bottom dwellers such as snapper and grouper. Aggressive by nature, these little fish have a distinctive black spot behind their gill plate and their body is a bluish-silver with alternating blue and yellow horizontal stripes. Care is required when handling pinfish as their lengthy dorsal houses a row of sharp pin like fins. Spawning offshore, pinfish rarely exceed 8” to 10“and are most often caught in the 4” to 6” range.
The best way to catch pinfish depends on where you are when you're trying to catch them. If you’re looking for pins over shallow grass flats the easiest way to capture a day’s supply is to simply throw a cast net over one of the schools. In deeper water, this technique won’t be quite as effective as even the little ones are too fast and almost always elude capture. It’s best to resort to a sabiki rig tipped with tiny bits of squid when you can’t visually see the bottom. Squid is by far the best choice as it will last longer on the hook through the multitude of persistent pecks.
The best technique for utilizing pinfish for bait again depends on where you're fishing. Over the same grass flats where you caught the bait, suspend a helpless victim 12” to 24” below a popping cork. Hook the bait through the back and as the frantic bait instinctively struggles to head into the grass for safety, it will catch the eye of lurking predators. Over deeper structure or in the surf, the most effective method is to present a pinfish directly on the bottom with a fish finder (sliding sinker) rig. Hook the bait above its anal fin so it’s forced to swim upwards into the path of oncoming hunters. There are also a number of anglers who prefer to simply free line these baits with no additional terminal tackle. Though this is usually an ideal way to present a baitfish in as natural a fashion as possible, if grass or any structure is in sight, pinfish will immediately try to hide and inevitably hang you up.
An all around quality bait, almost any species that consumes small fish will eat a pinfish, though they can loose a percentage of their appeal during particular times of the year. In the fall when mullet are everywhere, or if there is an overabundance of whitebait in the area, most game fish will focus on the prevalent forage and more times than not, will ignore a struggling pinfish. Regardless, these baits really do glisten on both the inshore and offshore scene. Redfish, cobia, trout, snook, tarpon, snapper, grouper and big AJ’s all have pinfish on their menus.
When handling these baits, keep in mind that pinfish are justly named. For novice anglers, the first time you grab one you’ll likely experience first hand what the pin in pinfish stands for. After you’ve been stuck a few times, try and hold the bait firmly near the head and gills without squeezing it to death while watching out for those spiny dorsal and ventral fins.
When it comes to actually catching pins for bait, life couldn’t get much easier. As previously mentioned, put a tiny bit of squid on a #2 or #4 hook or even a sabiki rig and toss it over grassy bottom. It shouldn’t take long for you to occupy the well with a bunch of baits. To really make short work of the job at hand, chum the area for a few minutes and throw a cast net over the whole lot. A large mesh, heavy net which sinks quickly will do the job nicely as pinfish are quick and once spooked, will bolt out of there faster then the net can sink. Once captured, pinfish will feel right at home in your bait well. They’re extremely hardy and will often outlive all the other baits in your well.
In situations with a fast moving current, hook pinfish under the chin and out through the nostril area. In conditions with less tidal flow, belly hook the bait about æ of the way back from the nose in the lower half of the body. Be careful not to stick the hook through the baits vital organs as the injury will likely kill the bait.
If you really want to see a pinfish pay off, try this: The next time you’re snapper fishing on a reef, grab a 30 lb. conventional outfit and rig it with a sliding sinker rig. Recommended is a 10’ length of 50 lb. fluorocarbon leader. Finish things off by tying on a large circle hook. Cut a large pinfish in half starting at the shoulders and diagonally working your way back to the anal fin. Drop either half to the bottom and place the rod in a holder. Before long your rod will double over from the weight of a big grouper heading back to its hole. Because of the baits large size and durability, active bait stealers will consistently peck at it, but that’s about all they’ll be able to do. The grouper’s curiosity will entice him to come investigate what all the commotion is about and what do you know, an easy meal! This works with live pinfish as well, but I’ve had greater success with just half of a bait.
However you fish them, pinfish are worth their weight in gold. They’re easy to catch, easy to keep alive and effective on a wide variety of inshore and offshore species. How much more versatility could you ask for in a bait?Capt. Mike Genoun on Google+
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