Pinfish Palaces

Mangrove snapper…gag, red and goliath grouper…seatrout…snook…redfish…tarpon of all sizes…cobia…flounder…these are just some of the many species that will, without a moment’s hesitation, pounce on a properly presented pinfish. This enticing member of the porgy family has become so popular that in some inshore regions shrimp, a staple of Florida’s shallow-water fisheries, have taken a back seat to “pins.” Add in the fact that these hearty and deadly effective baits are some of the most attainable baits Florida fishermen can get their hands on, and it’s easy to understand why pinfish are so prized.


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A 24-hour soak will likely result in enough pinfish for a productive day. Photo:

Fortunately for all of us, it’s safe to assume that there isn’t a single row of pilings, a significant grass bed or shallow patch reef surrounding the entire state that isn’t occupied by a community of these little go-getters. Another certainty is that these tough little critters are territorial, defending their little plot from all sides. And while quill rigs and cast-nets are equally effective for procuring a day’s supply of these golden treats, pinfish traps may very well be the most convenient method of approach. In case you don’t already know, a pinfish trap is essentially nothing more than a wire mesh box with two or more openings that allow the bait in, with a door on the top so you can get the chum in and an additional door on the side so you can get the trapped pinfish out.

Another certainty is that these tough little critters are territorial, defending their little plot from all sides.

Relatively inexpensive, pinfish traps come in an array of sizes to meet the needs of just about any live bait fisherman. Keeping in mind that pinfish traps work 100-percent of the time when the proper tactics are applied, here are a few simple steps you should follow to maximize your bait catching abilities.

1. Selecting the Perfect Pinfish Palace
Live bait traps have been in use for decades, yet just a few small differences from one trap to the next can make all of the difference between catching one dozen baits and ten dozen. Size, like with everything is important. Your typical weekend warrior obviously doesn’t need to capture as many baitfish as a full time guide who is on the water every day, so there are a variety of models available in various widths ranging from 11 to 24-inches in height with either half or one-inch mesh size. However when deployed in the proper location, even the smallest pinfish trap can effectively capture dozens of irresistible offerings.

2. Proper Palace Placement
You’ve heard it so many times before. Location, location, location! Ideally, you’ll want to set your trap in a proven area where you know pinfish reside. In most cases, this will be in water that is between four and nine-feet in depth adjacent to some sort of structure. Bridges…grass beds…rocky outcroppings…mangrove shorelines…all hold pins. A small buoy will identify your traps location so setting the trap somewhere off the beaten path towards your local pass or inlet is the best choice. As a rule, set the entrance side of the trap in the direction of the current flow. Live bait will enter the trap much easier swimming up or down current instead of attempting to enter the trap from the side. If the option exists, look for areas with slight to medium tidal movement. Lead weights, which can be substituted by a rock or brick, are available to insert into the trap for locations that have abnormally strong tidal flow.

Docks shouldn’t be overlooked either. I keep a small pinfish trap at my dock, which is miles from the nearest inlet, and seldom do I have a problem procuring dozens of fine grouper and cobia baits. Regardless where you set your trap, a productive area for live bait, especially during the middle of the winter is a valuable commodity!

3. Here Fishy Fishy
Properly baiting your pinfish trap is one of the most important aspects to successfully catching live bait. Shawn Gore of Catch-N-Bait Supply (, a leader in pinfish traps, says the more “chum” that is used the better the results. Filling the “bait” compartment in any pinfish trap to the brim will always increase your quantity of live bait catches. Rather than frozen chum blocks that quickly dissipate, you want something concentrated and tough. If the bait starts coming apart, pieces will drift through the wire mesh and pinfish won’t need to work their way into the trap to get their fare share of an easy meal. A few fresh mullet or a fish carcass with skin intact is ideal. Pinfish have an unbelievable sense of smell, so the more pungent the aroma in the water, the farther the scent will carry and thus, the greater number of pinfish will fall victim to your ploy.

Once a pinfish trap has been baited and set, live bait can be captured in only a few hours. However to achieve maximum results, it is highly recommended that you leave your trap undisturbed for at least 24-hours. Checking your trap more often will disturb the surrounding environment and will hinder your overall pinfish-catching success.