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Pinfish - Everything You Need To Know

Author: Bullbuster Team

Ultimate Guide To Pinfish


Pinfish are one of the most sought after bait fish, not only because of their abundance but because of their extreme hardiness when compared with other common baitfish.  In this article we are going to talk about where to find pinfish, how to catch them, what fish will eat them, and how to store them for long periods of time.

Where Pinfish Can Be Found

Below we cover the what areas of the US have pinfish, as well as how to find them when you are on the water.

Pinfish Range

Pinfish have a pretty huge range.  Anglers can find pinfish as far north as Massachusetts all the way down the East Coast of Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Gulf Of Mexico. Below is a map outlining the range of this awesome baitfish.

Three Best Places To Find Pinfish

Below we cover the three best places to look for pinfish. Having a chumbag with you when you get there will increase your chances of sucess.

1) Looking For Pinfish On Grass Flats

Pinfish love seagrass!  Sea grass not only gives these baitfish a place to hide, but it also has plenty of food for them to find. Sea grass is full of small crustaceans and juvenile fish that pinfish can pick at all day.  Approach a grass flat slowly and chum it up.  Work the edge of a grass flat where the grass meets sand for the best results!

Below is a figure that shows you what your typical seagrass edge will look like.

2) Looking For Pinfish Channel Markers & Structure

Pinfish can be found around structure and channel markers, especially when there is seagrass in the surrounding area.   Structure and channel markers that hold pinfish will often have a ring of sand around them, this is caused by small fish such as pinfish coming out of hiding at night and cleaning house on the area nearby.

Below is a photo of the Bent Range Marker via the Save The Bent Range Marker facebook page, a page dedicated to saving a favorite South Florida Baitfishing spot.

On the right day by putting a chum bag out at this spot, anglers can have 200-300 pinfish swarming right underneath their boat

3) Looking For Pinfish Around Mangroves

If the two suggestions above failed, and you have mangrove trees where you live try chumming close to the mangrove tree’s roots.  The reason we suggest doing this after the other two spots, is because you will often have a lot of bycatch on mangroves which is great if you want to catch snapper, grouper, snook, redfish and other fish, but isn’t so great if you are just trying to catch bait and move on fast.

Below is a picture of what the edge of the mangroves will look like if you are doing reserach before your trip using google maps. Try looking for mangroves that have deep spots, this can usually be seen by a lighter sandspot right in front of it.

Look For Pinfish At Your Local Bait & Tackle Store

If you have limited time to go fishing, or are new to an area you may be able to find pinfish at your local bait store. Not all bait stores have them, but a number do.

How Much Do Pinfish Cost At A Bait & Tackle Store?

Pinfish are usually sold for about $0.75 - $2.00 per fish depending on where you look and how big the pinfish are.

How To Catch Pinfish

Below we cover a few different ways to catch pinfish.

Learn 5 Ways To Catch Live Bait

How To Catch Pinfish With A Cast Net

Throwing a castnet on a school of pinfish is one of the fastest and easiest ways to load up on bait and quick!  Try chumming up a grass flat in shallow water (2-4 feet) and seeing what comes up.  Once you have a pretty big group of pinfish schooling up behind you then make your throw. Don’t throw too early because this will spook your school of pins.

In the video below Youtuber “Chapper15” cast nets a ton of jumbo pinfish.

How To Catch Pinfish With A Sabiki Rig

Sabiki rigs originated in Japan and are a series of small hooks with fish skins on them connnected by one line. When you drop a sabiki rig in the water and jig it, it looks like a school of small minnow size fish.

Pull Up To Your Pinfish Spot & Drop Your Chum Bag In

Pull up to the area you want to target pinfish in. (The best spots usually are range markers along a seagrass drop off). Drop your chumbag in and if the pinfish are in the area, they will be swarming your boat quickly. Drop your sabiki rig (prefferably a larger size rig) in the water and start jigging. The amped up pinfish in the chum slick will soon attack your sabiki rig voraciously

If you are fishing on a channel marker try dropping a medium to large sabiki rig with a spinning reel to where the pinfish are.  If you see a ton of other types of baitfish on the surface, try dropping your sabiki rig down a little deeper to produce more pinfish.

Tipping your sabiki rig with small chunks of squid or shrimp can't hurt either.

The sabiki rig below can be found on R&R tackle and is ideal for catching small to mid-size pinfish.

How To Work A Sabiki Rig For Pinfish

Remeber a sabiki rig is made to look like a school of minnows in the water. The simplest way to work a sabiki rig is to drop it all the way to the bottom (where most pinfish will be) and then jig it up slowly. With a "jerk jerk drop" motion. Think of this as a whole school of baitfish that moves towards the surface twice and then ducks back as if scared. Its a dart forward dart forward, drop back move for the whole "school of fish" on your sabiki rig.

Check out this video posted by “Working Class Woodsman” showing you how to use a sabiki rig for pinfish.

How To Catch Pinfish With Hook & Line

Pull up to your spot, preferably a channel marker near a sea grass dropoff, and throw your chumbag in the water. Give it a few good shakes. If they are in the area, they will be up shortly.

If you don’t have a sabiki rig handy, try using a small gold hook and a split shot tipped with shrimp on a small spinning reel using light mono or braid.  This is an easy way to pick up a ton of pinfish quickly and avoid the tangles that sometimes happen with sabiki rigs.

Check out this video posted by “Salt Strong” on youtube on how to catch pinfish with hook and line.

#BullbusterAmbassador Cpt. Kyle Skipper has an in depth guide to catching pinfish on hook and line.

Best Baits To Catch Pinfish On Hook And Line

  1. 1) Small Chunks Of Shrimp
  2. 2) Small Chunks Of Squid

How To Catch Pinfish With A Pinfish Trap

If you have a dock in your backyard, or have access to a dock using a pinfish trap is an easy way to load up on bait before you even leave the dock.  The night before  a big fishing day, simply drop your trap in the water and fill it with bait like shrimp or squid.  Pinfish traps are designed so that a fish can swim into your trap but will have a lot harder time getting out.

The video below posted by “Aaron Osters” on youtube shows you how to set a pinfish trap.  (Be sure to check with the regulations in your area before setting out a pinfish trap.

What is the best bait for your pinfish trap?

There are a ton of ways to bait your pinfish trap, below are a few of the best baits.

  1. 1) Squid
  2. 2) Catfood Can You Stabbed A Few Times
  3. 3) Shrimp (Big Enough To Stay Inside The Bait Tray
  4. 4) Carcases Of Fish You Filleted Today

Storing Pinfish When You Are Done For The Day

Storing Pinfish In A Bait Pen

Pinfish are one of the hardiest of all baitfish. These aren't herring where you need to treat them super delicatley or they will float to the top and die. Pinfish will do well in a bait pen for weeks or months if treatred correctly. Make sure to feed them often with shrimp, squid, chunks of fish your just filleted or with "bait food" advertised by companies like R&R Tackle.

So… What Eats Pinfish?

Earlier we said that pinfish was a great bait not just because it was hardy.  Its a great bait because a lot of fish like to eat them.  Below we mentioned a number of species that LOVE pinfish.  Just because we didn’t mention them below, does not mean that they won’t eat a pinfish.

Use Pinfish For Tarpon - Pinfish is a great bait for tarpon, this is one of the go to baits for guides and anglers alike fishing Florida Keys bridges for tarpon.

Use Pinfish For Cobia - Pinfish are great for cobia because of the hardiness factor.  If you are throwing a bait at a moving school of fish, you are going to want a bait that can handle a number of casts and will still swim straight.

Use Pinfish For Snook - Snook LOVE (or hate) pinfish.  Some anglers think its a hate thing, due to the fact that pinfish are constantly eating their roe.  We cannot confirm if this is true or not, but we can confirm that snook usually don’t hesitate to eat a fat pin.

Using Pinfish For Grouper - Pinfish is a go to grouper bait for many anglers, again this is because of the hardiness factor.  You want a bait that is going to be swimming straight after being dragged to the bottom rapidly with a big lead.  Many anglers clip the spines on the pinfish before dropping them for grouper because they think it leads to more bites.  Another trick is to clip their tail so they are easier to catch.

Using Pinfish For Big Mutton Snapper -  Pinfish are a favorite bait for many anglers targeting BIG muttons on deep water wrecks.  Smaller muttons may hesitate to eat a big juicy pinfish, but 8-20Lb mutton will not hesitate to grab a fat pinfish presented with a light wire hook and a long fluorocarbon leader.

Using Pinfish For Mangrove Snapper - If you can find some small pinfish ( less than 4 inches) these are excellent bait for mangrove snapper.  If you can’t find small pinfish, large pinfish fillets also make a great snapper bait.

Using Pinfish For Bull Reds -  A big inlet Bull red will usually have a hard time refusing a well presented pinfish.

Using Pinfish For Big Jack Crevalles - Jack Crevalles will eat pretty much anything that swims and pinfish is no exception.

How To Store Pinfish For The Long Run

Earlier we mentioned that pinfish are one of the most hardy baitfish.  This also means that they are one of the best bait fish to store long term.  Think twice before throwing away your hard earned bait at the end of a fishing trip. Pinfish are actually a fish that its possible to farm at your house (Check Out Our Article On Farming Your Own Baitifish)

Storing Pinfish In A Bait Pen

If you live near the water, an easy way to store pinfish is using a bait pen.  Since they are so hardy you can actually keep pinfish in a bait pen for quite a while, just make sure that you feed them every few days.

Storing Pinfish In A Tank

Pinfish can be stored in any salt water tank if you keep them well fed. You can go anywhere from a fifty gallon salt water aquarium to an Aquaculture style bin with a few hundred gallons of water in it.

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