Are Sand Fleas a good bait for saltwater fishing to catch fish?
Sand fleas are excellent fishing bait for pompano, redfish, black drum, flounder, and sheepshead.
This makes sense because the fish eating them are bottom dwellers and crab eaters and sand fleas are found on the ocean bottom close to shore.
What Is a Sand Flea?
Tiny green, grey, or light brown oval-shaped crustaceans usually less than 1 inch long with a curved shell and pairs of legs hidden underneath the body.
They have an exoskeleton for protection. They have antennae to filter food. They burrow into the soft sand after the wave brings them in and when it recedes they are nearly hidden.
Sandfleas are also called Atlantic mole crab, Atlantic sand crab, sea fleas, beach fleas, sand crabs, flea crabs, crab fleas and other names.
Sand crabs, sand bugs, mole crabs are in the same genus but quite different body type.
Are Sea Lice the Same as Sand Fleas?
No, sea lice are often confused with Sand Fleas but they are very tiny undeveloped jellyfish that swim in the water and sting you all over your body.
Those sharp little pricks that feel like bug bites while you are in the ocean are Sea Lice and nothing at all to do with Sand Fleas!
Are Chigo (Chigoe, Chiggers) Fleas the Same as Sand Fleas?
No, those are Tunga penetrans, and are microscopic fleas (bugs) that are capable of transferring disease. That is completely different from the sand flea bait we’re talking about here.
How Can I Catch Sand Fleas?
On the Florida coast – the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic side (Florida’s east coast) go out in daytime or night time.
During daytime you can use a sand flea rake to scoop some sand and sift it out to reveal them. The rake is more like a sand scooper with a screen mesh to allow sand to pass through and the sand-fleas to get trapped.
They are just about an inch or so under the wet sand as the waves are coming in. They burrow for protection from birds and other predators. Here’s a helpful video of a guy showing how he finds the right spot to collect them.
If you find a spot where they are, you can fill a bucket with fleas in no time using the rake.
A rake is not a necessity, you can simply use your hands to filter through the sand. There’s nothing in the sand that can hurt you except a sharp shell or maybe a piece of glass if you’re at a beach that is known for that.
At night time you can find them walking around the high tide mark on the same beaches and simply pick them up and put them in your bucket. They do not bite, pinch, or sting.
Sand fleas are very easy to catch, you can bring your kids with you to help.
How To Keep Sand Fleas Alive Longer?
In your bucket of sand fleas, be sure to add damp (not soaking wet) sand so they can burrow and feel safe.
The sand also keeps them at a better temperature and not in the hot Florida sun. Keep this in mind as you want to keep them alive until you use them as bait for fishing later.
Do not let your bait get too warm or cold. Do not put them on ice, they die quickly.
What Do Sand Fleas Eat?
They have the ability to trap plankton (microscopic animals) and detritus (dead matter) found in the water as it passes through their antennae. They eat this constantly. They also roam the beach after dark to find bits of dead marine animals they can eat.
How To Fish for Sheepshead with Sand Fleas
Using a size 1/0 or 2/0 J-hook with a long shank so the sheepshead cannot chew through your line, and 10 lb. test monofilament line you can free-line a big sand flea under docks, bridges, piers, or around any concrete wall or other structure in the water.
They hang around where barnacles grow on structure so any of these places should work.
Throw the bait and let it sink or float and you should get bites if the sheepies are around.
How To Fish for Pompano with Sand Fleas
Catch Pompano from the shore use a long rod over 7 feet, and more like 9 feet and bigger to throw your bait as far out as possible.
The water is shallow around Florida and you’ll need to get to at least a foot or more deep with your Pompano bait.
Using 6 lb. monofilament, maybe 8 or 10# put a sinker at the start of your line and a big swivel about 12 to 18 inches up from it.
Attach 1-2 mono lines with a small float and a 1/0 hook about 12 inches in length from the swivel. Put the hook up through the belly side to the soft shell of the back on both hooks and toss it out there. Hope for a double!
How To Fish for Redfish with Sandfleas
Using 30 lb. braid and a 20 lb. leader or just 20-30 lb. mono line attach a size #1 hook (or #2) to your mono line. Put some sinkers 2 feet up the line to hold the bait down.
Thread your sand flea onto the hook from the belly out through the back. Fish over oyster beds and other known redfish spots.
How To Fish for Flounder with Sand Fleas?
Fishing for Flounder with anything is easy, you can just drag the crab on the bottom in the sand with a couple of small split-shot sinkers close to it.
This kicks up sand and starts a feeding response in the flounder. Use a 1/0 hook through the crab and don’t hide the hook. Use 10 lb. monofilament line or braid with a mono leader.
Do Artificial Sand Flea Lures Work?
Artificial replicas of sand fleas are not very good and don’t work as well as the real one.
Some companies make an artificial sand flea lure so you don’t need to go catch them or buy them at the bait shop frozen.
Unfortunately no company has figured out how to make a crunchy lure that you can re-use over and over.
The lures I’ve seen have been rubber or plastic or very hard metal or plastic. None of these feel like a real crunchy sand flea in a fish’s mouth.
Do Frozen Sand Fleas Catch Fish?
No, they fall apart easily and you’ll be replacing them on your hook every time you cast out. Frozen ones do not stay on a hook for any length of time. Use live fleas when possible, and then use artificial lures over frozen bait.
Are Sand Fleas Endangered Marine Life?
No, they are not on the IUCN Redlist of endangered or threatened species. They have healthy populations in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast of the United States as well as many other countries.
Are Sand Fleas Good to Eat?
You can eat them after cooking but no, they are not good to eat. They have very little meat and are too crunchy to eat.
If you don’t mind eating soft shelled crunchy crabs with very little meat at all, then fry them up in some grease to soften the shell and eat some.
You will only do this once because it tastes worse than eating shrimp shells!
Sand fleas are a great bait for certain fish that also like to eat crabs. The interesting thing is some of the best tasting fish in the world can be caught using them as bait!
Sheepshead, Pompano, and Redfish are all in the top 5 best-tasting fish in Florida (IMHO).
They are found on the Gulf Coast side and Atlantic Coast of Florida and in many places along the beach. They are a free bait you can fill up a bucket with in just a short time if you’re in the right spot.
To keep sand fleas alive longer add damp sand (a lot) and keep them out of sunlight and do not put ice in with them.
They die quickly and once they do they fall apart easily as you fish. Live sand fleas are so much better than dead ones.
We have written other guides on Florida Fishing Bait, see some of them below.
See more Bait Info here >