Types of Saltwater Baitfish | BaitFish Identification

Baitfish are one of the most productive ways to fish only when you know exactly which bait to use where. Assuming you are less known about the types of saltwater baitfish, (which you must be) you would also need a guide as to how to get these bait with a baitcaster, let alone identifying each. Well, there is a number of saltwater baitfish. However, their effectiveness varies in using them for different conditions i.e inshore or offshore as well as the kind of fish you are targeting. 

Types of saltwater baitfish

Technically, fish have a special sense that humans don’t and with their sense being worked on, you can’t fool them with the non-living lures and jigs. Especially, for bigger fish such as catfish, bass, salmon, etc. hence using a baitfish is a necessity otherwise you’ll be back from the sea with frustration only. Despite there are many ways you can get the baitfish, for instance, there is a cast net, seine net, sabiki rigs, pinfish, and minnow traps. But before that, you must know the exact types of saltwater baitfish so let’s get started.

Types of saltwater baitfish:

Well, there are 16 types of “effective” baitfish that you can use on saltwater. These are baitfish names to be used in the saltwater.

  1. Ballyhoo
  2. Pilchards
  3. Blue Runner
  4. Cigar Minnow
  5. Croaker
  6. Goggle Eye
  7. Menhaden
  8. Mullet
  9. Pinfish
  10. Shrimp
  11. Spanish Sardine
  12. Squid
  13. Mackerel
  14. Glass Minnows
  15. Needlefish
  16. Thread Herring

Apart from that, this list includes bait “fish” and not the other types of baits that you see the anglers use. The other list may include worms, eels, crabs, and clams. The baits also include artificial ones as well. Although live baits are the best fish foods as already mentioned above, fishes can sense non-living baits. Additionally, it can be hard to catch live baits if you are going without the correct equipment i.e reel, rods, nets, or fishing traps that’s why we have explained the procedure for catching, keeping, and using the respected baits below. 

1. Ballyhoo:

Ballyhoo Baitfish

At the top of the list, we have ballyhoo as one of the top-notch and versatile fishing baits. They are most commonly found in the north of the Gulf of Mexico. They can also be found in the chum lines inshore. Whereas, the best use of this bait is when trolling offshore. 

There’s a separate BallyHoop to catch this type of bait. However, you can also use a sabiki rig or cast net. In addition, you can use them afresh or freeze them after applying a pinch of salt to the belly. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Sailfish, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, Mahi Mahi, and marlin.  

2. Pilchards:

Pilchards are small baitfish that are found in groups so may easily catch a ton of them in one time cast. The best time to catch Pilchards is sundown after 5 PM. And speaking of the cast, you may use a cast net to catch them. Although you have to use them live i.e you can’t store them or they will be decomposed.

Pilchards Baitfish

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Snook, tuna, tarpon, redfish, kingfish, trout, Spanish mackerel, and other predator fish.

3. Blue Runner:

Blue runners are one of the fastest baitfish. They are commonly used for trolling with the fast-running boat. With this bait, you have to keep up the pace of the fishing otherwise it will mess up with the lines.

As for the spots, these fishes can be located on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Like Pilchards, they are found in schools so you can catch a bunch of them together. Although these are usually considered game fish, you can also use them as your most effective baits. 

Blue Runner Bait

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Mackerels, Tuna, etc 

4. Cigar Minnow:

20 feet down the water in the grass flats, you may get Cigar minnows. These are slightly bigger baits for bigger game fish like group, tuna, etc. cigar minnows are most beneficial when used for reef and offshore.

For catching them, you may use sabiki rigs or cast nets using chum. Also, you can get sand mixed with a chum for better results. 

Cigar Minnow

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Grouper, Marlin, kingfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, cero mackerel sailfish, large snapper, barracuda, jacks, and amberjacks. 

5. Croaker:

Croaker itself is a game fish but they are usually used as the bait by most professional anglers. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean near Massachusetts and that is why referred to as Atlantic Croakers. They are, undoubtedly, the most useful ocean fishing bait that you may consider. These fishbaits can give you a great experience for bottom fishing. 

Croaker bait

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Trout, bass, grouper, shark, bluefish, and flounder.

6. Goggle Eye:

Since they have larger eyes, it is technically hard to catch them during the day and that’s why they are mostly caught at the night. You can use bait hooks or sabiki rigs to catch them. Plus, you can store them for up to a week but you have to keep them separately because they can easily decompose when kept in many fishes.

Goggle Eye Baits

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Sailfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi, tuna.

7. Menhaden/Bunker:

Menhaden is another common saltwater baitfish for heavier game fishes. They are found in schools in the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf of Mexico is another good place to find them. Although, you can also purchase them from any bait shop since they can be used both alive or dead. Besides, they are also called bunkers. 

Bunker Baitfish

For catching them, there are two nets. One is the simple cast net method which gets you a bunch of them and the other one is snagging rig with which you can directly use them as baits with a spinning reel . However, that totally depends on you i.e you can also reel in and put it on the hook as you like. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Bluefish, striped bass, shark, dolphins, tuna, weakfish, redfish, and even whales!

8. Mullet:

Mullet baitfish

Mullet is a popular inshore baitfish. You can catch them using a cast net at both shore and inshore. They are both large and small in size and of course, both are effective for the list of fishes we have mentioned under. Though, you can use them alive or dead as the bunkers. Besides., you can’t catch them with the rod and reel combo and thus you have to go with some pieces of bread as the baits. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Redfish, bluefish, tarpon, barracuda, bass, and sea trout.  

9. Pinfish:

Pinfish are one of the easiest baitfish to catch. They live in the ocean and they are similar to sunfish (a freshwater bait). They can be caught using a pinfish trap that you gotta keep overnight. Besides, their upkeep is easy as well and they are known to be one of the best live bait for saltwater fishing. You can feed them anything and store them in the bait pen.

Pinfish Bait

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Sharks, tarpon, grouper, sailfish, amberjacks, jacks, snapper, barracuda, etc 

10. Shrimp:

Shrimps are small baitfish with so much power in them. They can be caught with a cast net but they are better to be bought on from a tackle or bait shop. Although they are to be used live they work better when dead, especially for the catfish. 

Shrimp baitfish

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Snapper (yellowtail, mangrove), ladyfish, redfish, mahi-mahi, pompano, bluefish, permit, groundfish, grunts, and catfish. 

11. Spanish Sardine:

For the bottom and offshore fishing, a Spanish sardine is a good option. Although, you may get pacific sardine as well. Like most of the baitfish on this lost, they are also caught using sabiki rigs. Also, they are better when using live i.e dead Spanish sardine gets mushy. 

spanish sardine baitfish

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Tuna, sharks, sea lions, marlin, whales, dolphins, and dorado. 

12. Squid:

Squid is a weird kind of baitfish but you’ll be truly amazed by using it as baits. It can be used in pieces as well as as a whole. They are the favorite food of many saltwater fishes. Bottom fishing and trolling are your two best options when hooking up the squid. 

Squid bait

All in all, it’s better to buy squid from outside than catch them cause it is way harder. Also, they are better dead so why invest all your efforts in catching just a bait while you can do a lot better in setting up a trap for an actual game fish. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Snapper, billfish, tuna, flounder, grouper, snapper, halibut, tripletail, mahi-mahi, and fluke. 

13. Mackerel:

Most often, mackerel is used as a game fish but, under certain circumstances, they are used as baits. To find them, you can go to the South Pacific or North Atlantic Ocean. Sabiki rigs or cast nets are your best options to catch them. 

mackerel baitfish

Mackerel has several types as well. You may get cero-mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and gree-back mackerel. In addition, you can use them as a whole as well as in pieces. They can stay useful for a day (you can’t keep them for longer when using them as bait)

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Sea lions, tuna, marlin, and sharks.

14. Glass Minnows:

Glass minnows are another common type of saltwater bait that you can find in the flats of the Atlantic ocean. You can use these baits alive as well as after scenting them. There are various types of saltwater minnows that are commonly used for fluke fishing. 

Glass Minnows Baitfish

In addition, you can use a minnow trap to catch them otherwise the easy way is the cast net since with it you can get them in a vast quantity and more conveniently. They have other names such as spearing baitfish and silversides. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Flounder, snapper, sea bass, fluke, striped bass, and bluefish 

15. Needlefish:

Needlefish are like big worm fish and this is why they are also called sand eels or sand lances. Though, they shouldn’t be confused with the eels since they are also baited but of a different kind. You can find a large school of needlefish in the Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. 

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Bluefish, rockfish, halibut, flounder, sea bass, striped bass, cod, and weakfish. 

16. Thread Herring:

They are a very common type of saltwater baitfish that you can find in the Atlantic Ocean. They are usually small in size but you can easily hook them through the nose. You can cut them into pieces and use them as chum since it is better this way. 

Thread Herring baits

Common types of fish you can catch with this bait:

Striped bass, redfish, snook, tarpon, blacktip, snapper, grouper, kingfish, and sharks 


Minnows are both freshwater and saltwater. In fact, that is a generic terms use for the baitfish. In saltwater, you can get the minnows with the help of seine nets while in freshwater you can get them with mesh nets.

The effectiveness of using shiners varies from water to water. In saltwater, they can be quite effective when used for catfish, walleye, bass, pikes, etc.

Bluegill is one of the primary food in the diet of bass fish. In fact, that is one of the most effective baitfish for saltwater along with the green sunfish, rock bass, or pumpkinseed.


By all means, these are the total types of saltwater baitfish options that you may get while going for sea fishing or trolling. With the information being considered, we are quite assured that you’ll be using the right way to catch the baitfish, keeping it as it should be and used for the right game fish. However, you must be careful while hooking it up and for this, just keep in mind, “if you can’t eat that bait, neither will your target fish”. 

So good luck with this huge variety of saltwater baitfishes!

Clinton Shannon

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