Catching bait is a common practice among many anglers. In fact, you normally don't have to look too far to find someone throwing a cast net from shore or a boat to catch their bait. We're fortunate in Florida to have a wide variety of species that can be used as baitfish, but it’s important to remember that just because a fish is small, it doesn't mean its legal bait! Not all juvenile sportfish look exactly like their adult form and can be confused with commonly used baitfish.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I've seen anglers keep everything they land in their net despite having juvenile sport fish among the catch. I see this happen most often with juvenile permit and pompano which can be found along our beaches and juvenile lane snappers that can be found in many locations. Even if it is unintentional, anglers can face fines (possibly per fish) and potentially jail time if caught in possession of these regulated fish. Of course from a conservation perspective, it would not make sense to keep and use these fish either as we want them to mature and reach legal size.
As a responsible angler it is important to not only be aware of and follow the fishing regulations, but to also be aware of what juveniles sport fish look like so that they don't accidentally end up as bait. Below are some examples of juvenile sportfish you might encounter if you catch bait either along the beach or estuaries. To view the current saltwater fishing regulations visit:
|Spotted sea trout|