The one baitfish I absolutely love for Florida saltwater fishing is spunky little long-lasting Pinfish.
This little bait fish is surprisingly easy to catch with a Sabiki Rig or cast net, and they’re literally everywhere in the shallows and around sea grass or any structure in the shallows.
Pinfish is the number one rated live-bait for inshore and off-shore fishing, above all other bait fish.
Family/Genus/Species: Family: Sparidae (porgies) | Genus: Lagodon | Species: L. rhomboides
Other Names:Porgy, Red Porgy, Pins, Pinnies, Bream, Pin Perch, Sand Perch, Butterfish.
Appearance: This fish’s name comes from the unique solo spine that is pin-like at the beginning of the dorsal fin high on the back.
It is the first spine, and there are 11 more that follow in the dorsal fin. The body is oval shaped and laterally compressed.
The mouth is small and with 8 incisor-like teeth on each jaw and also has 2.5 rows of molar-like teeth. There is a black spot near the gill plate on both sides.
Overall color is silver or gold with blue and yellow lines running from head to tail.
Colors are darker on the dorsal and lighter, even white on the ventral side (belly). Fins are light yellow with broad, light blue margins.
Length: In their first six months of life, pinfish can reach 1.97 to 4.9 inches (5 to 12.5 cm). This range is perfect for all kinds of Florida gamefish. Pins can replenish lost numbers quickly. They are voracious eaters and breeders.
Range: Saltwater fish (Marine) and in some freshwater and brackish water (salt/freshwater mix). Pins prefer a depth of 1 to 302 feet deep (.3 – 92 m) depending on water temperature and cover.
Subtropical climates between 43°N – 18°N, 98°W – 63°W with water temperatures from 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C ).
In North America they are found in saltwater along the coast from Massachusetts down around the Florida peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico and into Cuba.
Diet: Various small organisms as shown in the chart below.
A study showed more than 40 food categories from stomachs of hundreds of Pinfish. Have a look at this.
Habitat: These small bait fish prefer water from 1 foot to nearly 200 feet deep with higher salinity (salt content) than a lot of other fish. They are frequently found in sea grass and vegetation of all kinds.
They need structure of some type to feel safe from predatory fish who search for them. Rocks, jetties, pylons, bridges, piers, fallen trees, and anything else can hold hundreds of pinfish within the depth range mentioned.
IUCN Redlist Rating: LC – Least Concern. This fish is thriving in most areas it inhabits and there are no restrictions in place for taking them at any size in Florida.
Which Fish are Pinfish the Perfect Bait for?
I find I’m always using pins for snook. That’s the one fish I just don’t bother using anything else, despite the fact that my uncle caught a 40+ inch snook on a 1/4″ piece of shrimp on what looked to be a Sabiki Rig.
I never bothered with shrimp. Maybe I should have?! I also use them for grouper and snappers when I can.
I tend to just go to the shallows around the mangroves where I know there is some seagrass and throw the net to catch a bunch.
It’s fast and easy and it’s on the way for me usually from my house on the way to the pier or boat.
Bream is Great Bait for These Fish (and more)
- Spotted Seatrout
- Black Drum
How Should You Place the Hook to Catch a Fish?
Most top fishermen will hook porgy through the mouth, coming up through the bottom and out the top with the hook. For me, I nearly always hook them around the spine in front of the dorsal fin.
I’m not sure why I do this, except that it changes how the fish swims and predators know something is wrong with the fish and they’ll target it more.
That’s my idea anyway. does it work? I’ve certainly not done bad over the years! Experiment and see which works best for you.
Where Can You Find Pinfish?
The brown area shows where bream can be found along the eastern USA and down into the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan peninsula.
You simply need to drop very small hooks tipped with shrimp into the water from a boat to find them, or better – use a Sabiki Rig. Even better is just use a cast net over seagrass surrounded by sand.
3 Ways to Catch Pinfish Easily?
- If you’re in a boat, you can simply drop a Sabiki Rig over the side of the boat tipped with very small pieces of shrimp or cut squid. If you’re in an area where they are, you’ll have multiple fish on the shiny gold hooks in seconds.
- Get a cast net with small holes and learn how to throw it in the shallows. You can pull up to a beach and throw the net a few times over the pinfish spots and have more bait than you’ll use all day. It can really be that easy. Cheap too compared to buying it! See the next section for how much they cost.
- Traps. You can drop a trap into the shallows and catch a few dozen fish, but you’ll have to stick around so nobody takes your trap. This is an efficient way if you can safely leave the trap for a couple of hours.
How Much Are Pinfish at Bait shops in Florida?
Of course, you don’t have to go to the trouble of catching pinfish if you don’t want to. They are usually for sale at the bigger bait shops.
Problem is, they also sell out fast because they are such great bait and many anglers would rather just pay for them and save the time, heading out on the water faster to catch bigger gamefish.
The other problem is, they are expensive! A sampling of bait shop prices on the east and west coasts of Florida found these prices for a dozen pins.
- Around $12 for a dozen small bait fish 1–2 inches long.
- $15 for a dozen medium-sized fish 2–4 inches.
- $20 for a dozen bigger fish 4–6 inches.
- $30 to $80 for a dozen fish about 6 inches or more.
Are Bream Good to Eat?
Not sure! Really, I’ve never eaten one or had one offered to me. They are so small that picking the bones out is hardly worth the effort.
These are tiny fish and the amount of meat you’d get on one, even broiling the entire fish, would hardly be enough for a couple of bites.
Not really worth cleaning them to cook to tell you the truth! In comparison, a Pompano is a small fish, but it has about 10 times the flesh.
Video – Catching Bream with Cast Net and Hook and Line
- Feeding Ecology of Lagodon rhomboides (PDF)
- Food habits of Pinfish (PDF) Master’s Thesis. University of South Florida.
- Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. Species Profile: Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides. PDF
- IUCN Redlist for L. rhomboides.
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