BY THE BOBBER DOWN TEAM
Our July 2nd blog "Redfish, Whiting, and Bluegill" was so popular that Tommy the Trout asked Christian, a friend of the Bobber Down Team and fellow fishing buddy of Bob G, one of the authors of "Fishing in the Alphabet Vol I: The A, B, C's of Freshwater Fishing," to come back and tell us about his favorite bait to use when saltwater fishing.
I grew up spending summers on a barrier island off of Clearwater, Florida called Sand Key. Today the island is so over built with condos it honestly looks like the weight of the buildings will sink the narrow white sand island. But for this story we need to go way back in time when there were only 2 condo buildings, a fishing pier, and a swimming pool. Mostly you could find me during the day or night on the pier fishing with all the local old-timers. I have a few fond memories that involve saltwater bait that make me laugh to this day whenever I think of them. But before I get into all of that I should mention that my 3 favorite baits for saltwater fishing have always been frozen squid, live shrimp, and live minnows.
As you can imagine the smell of the thawed squid would drive the fish crazy. No sooner would the hook splash into the water I was hauling in a pinfish, whiting, sail catfish, flounder, or something exotic. The results were amazing. Even my mom was attracted to the squid. One evening my mom (who immigrated from Greece) made us "calamarakia" which to me meant we were all in for a treat. Up until that moment I didn't realize that there wasn't a difference between what I had been using for bait and what was now on my plate. To my horror I discovered a couple of empty squid boxes in the garage can during clean up. My mom reassured me that I would live because she rinsed the squid extra times. Needless to say I turned green instantly. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that there was no difference between squid the bait and the squid in my plate.
Live shrimp is another of my favorite baits. They used to sell gigantic ones at the causeway bait shop. I would slide the hook through the belly but sometimes would opt for the head. I would generally catch the same fish as with Squid minus the sail cats. I should mention one of my fishing buddies we called "Crazy Kenny" who would buy dozens of shrimp so he should eat them later on in the day. I didn't believe him until I one day, when we were older, I watched him cook and eat shrimp from the bait shop in front of me with his pasta. I ended up eating them too as they were better than any shrimp I had ever eaten.
Minnows were always fun to use as bait because they were free and I had to catch them with a set of rings. If you are not familiar with rings, imagine a rings connected in a single row about 3 or 4 feet long with a red ribbon threaded through them to attract the minnows. This was a pretty effective tool to catch minnows as the bigger ones would get stuck swimming through them. Once in a blue moon the minnows would congregate near the seawall by the tens of thousands. I would scoop my hand net down and pull up more than I could ever use and share them out with the rest of the old timers on the pier. One of these occasions I took a bucket of the minnows home to see if my mom could fry them up like she would smelts. Of course my mom was grossed out by the thought of eating minnows and sent me back out of the house. Here is a recipe for fried minnows (yes Ma, you can eat minnows...) that you can consider if you are ever fortunate enough to be surrounded by hoards of them.
Instructions for Frying Minnows:
- Fill a large frying pan with approximately an inch of cooking oil. You can use canola oil, or olive oil. My preference is olive oil.
- Place the frying pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. While the oil heats up, mix one part flour with one part cornmeal in a bowl and shake in some Adobo for added flavor. Make sure there is enough to coat all the minnows that you wish to cook.
- Add minnows into the dry mixture and then drop them into the hot oil. Cook them until they are golden brown.
- Remove the fried minnows from the frying pan with tongs and lay them on a plate that is lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. After they drain, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.