What type of fishing is your favorite? A lot of my friends love trolling offshore in Florida for any number of great gamefish that can be found in the blue waters of the Gulf Stream, Gulf of Mexico and especially the fabulous Florida Keys. Although I enjoy trolling and covering a lot of ground, my favorite method of fishing has always been live bait and trolling is my method to find where the fish are. The problem I sometime encounter is what live bait to use and how to get it! Once you can catch your live bait you then have to keep it alive as well. Remember sometimes its best to start catching your bait a day or two before your going to use them in order to make sure you have bait to use. Catching live bait is not always easy or quick and quite often frustrating.
You need to first determine what type of bait is the best choice for your intended targets. You may also consider a second or third choice if the bait your really want to use is not available through catching them yourself or buying from a bait dealer. In South Florida pretty much anything that lives in the bays or reefs will hit live shrimp, which are readily available in most bait shops. Shrimp will not only be a great choice for the many species of Jacks and Snappers in the bays and Shallow reefs but will also catch larger fish such as Snook, King Mackerel and Small Tuna a bit further offshore. The key to fishing with live shrimp is to use a light wire circle hook and the lightest line that will adequately handle the species targeted. They are easily kept alive with a small pump or bucket floating over the side.
Another great bait, especially when trying for larger game fish such as Sailfish, smoker King Mackerel and even Swordfish is the Goggle eye. Goggle Eyes can be a bit of a pain in the butt to catch and its usually best to catch them a day or two before you need them just because they are a bit more difficult to get, but do well in a bait pen if cared for. During some tournaments when Goggle Eyes are scarce they can be worth their weight in gold when and if you can buy them. Goggle Eyes are usually caught at night or very early in the morning during the phases when the moon is not visible. Try for goggle eyes on reefs and wrecks anywhere from 50 to 300 feet of water. Slightly larger versions of the Sabiki rig are used and although you are targeting them in water much deeper than you would for Pilchard, many people still use a weighted chum bag. Looking for Goggle Eyes near large anchored container ships waiting to enter ports is also a method that has shown to be successful. Try not to handle the Gogs too much as they have a protective coating that you want to preserve.
Lesser-used but still effective baits that are sometimes easier to catch and are found in the bays and shallows are blue runners and Pinfish. Pinfish can be caught on the grass flats using just a small hook, light weight and a piece of pretty much any type of bait such as small pieces of squid, shrimp or bits of other fish. Be very careful unhooking them as they have very sharp dorsal spines which many anglers trim before using them for bait. My first Sailfish was caught on a Miami Drift boat on a Pinfish I caught at the dock and kept in a bucket. Blue Runners are not only are great bait but fun to catch as well. Blue Runners will hit pretty much anything but my method of trolling a small feather or nylon jig over the shallow reefs is fun and easy.
Catching live bait is fun and if you have kids on board it easily keeps them entertained. When using live baits its really important to try and match your bait to the type of tackle you are using and what you are targeting. The key to live bait fishing is to keep the bait swimming and lively. Too heavy a hook and that would not be possible, line that is too heavy will make it difficult as well. Match the hook, line and tackle to the fish. With live bait you can rarely go wrong with a light wire circle hook and the lightest line you feel comfortable with. Just drift along, and let the fun begin!