Natural Baits for Saltwater Fishing

There are a variety of natural baits suitable for surf fishing. Most beginners would do well to start off with bloodworms and cut bait made from menhaden. In general the fresher the bait, the better it will stay on the hook and the more appealing it will be game fish. In warm weather, I will usually have a smalll styrofoam cooler that I will use just to hold bait.

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These aquatic brownish red worms can grow to 15 inches long and are eaten by most species of surf fish at one time or another. Bloodworms burrow in silty sand or clay flats that are below high tide. Digging them can be work but it might be worth while since they tend to be expensive. This bait can be very effective in spite of the expense. Handle them with care, they have a retractable beak capable of inflicting a very nasty bite. Use these whole or in pieces. Bloodworms will last 3 or 4 days if kept cool in damp seaweed but they will last longer if they are refrigerated. Do not expose them to freshwater otherwise a gooey mess will be the result.

Earthworms and Nightcrawers

Terrestrial earthworms have been used with some success in fishing for Spot and Croaker and are considerably cheaper than bloodworms. They may be kept for several days if they are kept cool and are not exposed to saltwater.


Squid is fished whole or in pieces. For someone starting out surf fishing it is probably best to use a piece of squid rather that a whole one. A small type of squid known as calamari is sold frozen in most supermarkets. Cut the squid into strips 3 to 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.

Peeler Crab

Peeler Crabs are crabs that are molting or have molted and while the new shell is still soft. They are also known as soft shell crabs they can be used whole or cut in half. As a bait they can be rather expensive.

Clams, mussels and other bivalves

The shells are removed and the hook is passed through the tough muscle.

Clams snouts

These are the siphons that are removed from clams when they are processed. They are usually sold frozen.

Cut bait

The term cut bait, generally refers to pieces of fresh cut fish such as bunker and mullet. Bunker are also known as atlantic menhaden.


Shrimp will attract most species of saltwater gamefish. They are usually peeled for best results.

Mole Crabs

Also known as the Sand Flea, the mole crab is a crustacean commonly found in the sand below the high water mark. They are used primarily as bait for Pompanos but may also be used to fish for flounder, sheepshead and even kingfish.


Killies are a minnow like fish found in the still water of bays and estuaries. They survive well in a bucket as long as the water is changed periodically.

They can often be purchased but some people will go to the trouble of catching them with a throwing net.