Spot are named and identified by the distinctive dark spot above the pectoral fin. The species is also known as lafayette, goody, or Norfolk spot. Spot are common from Cape Cod to Florida and through the Gulf of Mexico. Spot rarely exceed 10 inches in length, making them highly sought after as live baits. These fish are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, coastal bays, rivers, creeks and other estuaries of Virginia.
The Atlantic croaker, also known as croaker or hardhead are a common bait for sea trout, striped bass and for offshore fishing. Croaker usually arrive in large numbers in summer, moving into the ocean in fall.
Pinfish, also known as sailor’s choice, or pin perch is sometimes caught It ranges from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico, being more abundant from Virginia south. Pinfish are known to coastal anglers as a “bait stealer,” but are sought after as a live bait for other larger fish. Pinfish are Pinfish are typically 4-8 inches in length.
Pigfish are colorful members of the grunt family. They are marked with a bluish upper and a silver lower body. Each scale has a blue center and bronze edge, which forms a series of yellow-brown stripes on the sides and sometimes exhibits orange bands on the snout and head. The full range of pigfish extends from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico, although they are rare north of Virginia. Pigfish make excellent live baits for striped bass, cobia, sharks and other species.
Silver perch, also known as silver croaker ranges from New York southward through the Gulf of Mexico to northern Mexico. Because of its relatively small size, the silver perch are popular as a live bait species but is occasionally harvested for the table.
Striped mullet are common in the back bays, creeks and in the surf. Immature mullet are 3 to 8 inches long, making an excellent choice for live bait. The fish have a rounded, silvery body, dark bluish green back and dark stripes on the sides, and a small mouth. Striped mullet can often be seen jumping to evade predators.
The Atlantic menhaden is a toothless herring with a blue, blue-green or blue-brown body. The sides, fins and belly are silvery, often with a yellowish sheen. Menhaden are a favorite prey of many predatory fish and other species, including bluefish, weakfish, striped bass and others. Small menhaden can be caught in creeks, sheltered coves and canals using cast nets or seines.
The Atlantic herring is one of the most abundant species of fish on the planet . They are small, pelagic fish known for their schooling tendencies. Herring are iridescent, greenish or grayish blue dorsally with a silvery abdomen and sides. They can occasionally be caught in the late winter or early spring using jigs and make excellent baits for predatory fish found off the coast of Virginia.
Atlantic silversides live in small creeks and shallow areas. They are an important forage fish for predators such as striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and Spanish mackerel. Silversides are caught with seines, traps or small mesh cast nets. Their small size makes them difficult to fish as live baits but the results can be well worth the effort.