While they aren’t the most glamorous of all baitfish, pinfish are some of the most abundant forage species throughout the entire state. Members of the porgy family, pinfish are aggressive predators that can be captured on a consistent basis with relative ease. Fortunately, nearly every dock, piling and grass flat around the state harbors these feisty baitfish. More importantly, grouper, snapper, snook, cobia and redfish are just a few of the prized game fish that savor the taste of pinfish.
If you’re only looking to put a few pinfish in your well, you can certainly catch a handful on nearly any sort of structure with a sabiki rig or #2 gold hook tipped with shrimp or squid. However, a few pinfish won’t last long during an action-packed day inshore or off. If you are really serious about putting together a solid catch you’ll need a more effective method to procure a solid supply of these frisky baitfish.
You will likely have to experiment with various locations until you find a combination of depth, current and structure that is the most effective.
To increase your score without having to work too hard you’ll want to invest in a pinfish trap. Relatively inexpensive, pinfish traps typically feature a square or rectangle design with steel mesh construction and various entry door styles. While designs vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next, Florida law limits pinfish traps from exceeding 24 inches in any dimension. Fish Latitude25 (fishlatitude25.com) manufactures the traps we use. FWC regulations also state that the entry may not exceed 3 inches in height by ¾ inches in width. While there’s no law requiring a marker buoy, you may want to use one to avoid misplacing your trap if you plan on leaving it unattended for an extended period of time. However, there have been many stories of pinfish stolen from traps and traps stolen altogether. If you plan on placing your pinfish trap in a high-traffic area you may want to avoid a marker buoy to keep it under the radar.
While designs vary, you’ll soon come to the realization that your trap’s entrance is the greatest factor in determining your overall catch and really the only difference between designs. Too small of an entrance and you will only catch tiny pinfish, where conversely too large of a door will enable pinfish to swim in an out with relative ease. Some manufacturers have further enhanced their designs with exit walls and other entrance designs that make it easier for pinfish to enter while simultaneously thwarting them from escaping. The number of entry points also varies, but keep in mind that more entry points also equals more exit points. Some traps have two entry points while others have upwards of four. In general, the more entry points your trap has the shorter soak time you’ll want to use.
Pinfish can be found in numerous venues, but when deploying your trap you’ll want to select an area with healthy grass beds and noticeable current. Trout flats are some of the most common hiding places for pinfish no matter your location in the state. Other areas worth setting a trap include bridge pilings and docks. Depths from 3- to 10-feet are ideal and in the winter pinfish typically relate to deeper depths. If the shallows aren’t holding don’t hesitate to move to another location in the vicinity of deeper water. While location is certainly important, how you place your trap is also pivotal and will determine the amount of baitfish you incarcerate. To get the most out of your trap place the doors in the direction of the current. This will make it easier for fish to enter instead of having to swim perpendicular to the current.
Since pinfish aren’t picky eaters nearly any offering will do the trick. Mullet, sardines, menhaden and fish carcasses are only some of the oily baits that will keep pinfish interested. It is also common practice to place frozen chum in your trap, with many manufacturers offering user-friendly designs with chum and bait holding compartments. As the smell of your bait disperses pinfish will start to take notice within minutes. Let your trap soak for a minimum of 3- to 6-hours. If you really want to load up let your trap sit overnight. What you don’t want to do is check your trap too often because it will only disturb the ecosystem you’ve created.
Don’t think you’ll score big on your first attempt. You will likely have to experiment with various locations until you find a combination of depth, current and structure that is the most effective. With only a little effort you can greatly maximize your bait catching abilities, but you’ll need to try different spots under varying conditions to see what works best. No matter what species you plan on targeting, pinfish are easy to keep alive for long periods of time and highly effective on a variety of prized game fish.