The Big Dilemma…… Live Shrimp, Live Minnows, Or Live Mullet?
This is the dilemma that plagues many saltwater anglers when trying to figure out which bait to choose.
Let’s start with shrimp – the tried and true, go-to inshore bait. Shrimp can be an inshore favorite, whether under a cork, on a Carolina rig, or on a jig head. One of the most important things to remember about shrimp is that it’s like the bubble gum of the sea, “everything chews it,” so it is a great bait when the “bait stealers” aren’t around. Regarding the “where and how” of using shrimp as bait, I personally like to fish with them on floats around oyster beds and deep drop offs. It is also important to remember that you need to keep the live bait moving. If you let the bait to sit, it is more likely to be picked. I recommend hooking the shrimp somewhere in the tail. I do this for several reasons. Number one, I feel like the shrimp stays alive longer than they do when hooking them in the head. Number two, shrimp swim backwards when they are scared, so hooking them in the tail is a more natural motion when you move the shrimp. So, the big things to keep in mind when using shrimp are location, surroundings, and movement.
Let’s move on to the “muds,” or as most of you know them, Mud Minnows. Mud minnows can be found at almost every tackle shop in the Carolinas. They are cheap, easy to keep alive, and produce a ton of action while on the hook. I like to use mud minnows when the “bait stealers” are around (pinfish, croakers and mangrove snappers). The bait stealers tend to leave the mud minnows alone a little more than shrimp. I recommend using mud minnows on the bottom while fishing around rocks and other structure. Carolina rigs or jig heads paired with a mud minnow can produce some solid flounder action around structure. If you are into trolling, mud minnows can be a great choice of bait if fished on a jighead. When deciding how to hook mud minnows, I look at their size. I like to hook the big ones through the mouth and the smaller ones through the tail. The smaller minnows tend to swim more when they are hooked through the tail, and they are more likely to stay alive when the hook is pushed through. The larger minnows, because of their size, are more likely to stay alive when they are hooked though the mouth.
Finally, we have the menhaden and mullet for all of you in search of the bull reds. Mullet and menhaden can be found up and down the beach and in the creeks almost all summer long. Big redfish love to feed on whole, live mullet and menhaden. I prefer taking both with me if I am targeting bull reds. Some days they like the mullet, and other days they like menhaden. The key to fishing with mullet and menhaden is hook placement. I tend to hook the baits through the nose, which allows them to swim while on the hook. It is important to make sure the bait is not spinning or going to spin once on the bottom. I also recommend changing the baits out quite often. I find that a healthy bait with a lot of energy catches more fish.
Deciding what bait to use can be a big deal, but here a couple of tips to keep in mind. Variety is always a good thing. Take a couple of dozen shrimp and a couple of dozen mud minnows on your next trip. Try both, and see what is working best that day. Use fresh baits. If the bait is not swimming or moving, change it out for a fresh one. Finally, Keep the bait moving. Most minnows and other fish type baits will do the moving for you, but when fishing with shrimp, make sure you keep movement in mind.