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For me it is the Smelt. Why?
Many of our local coastal fish grow up in the nurseries which are our back bays, estuaries and harbors. The main live bait food source is the Smelt.
Smelt also live near coastal kelp beds, there are Surf Smelt, Smelt at every Island we fish and I have even seen Smelt on large kelp paddies offshore.
So the list of fish I have caught on Smelt include, Sand Bass, Calico Bass, Surf Perch, Sculpin, Sharks, White Sea Bass, Yellowtail, Halibut and even an Albacore.
The Smelt is a very versatile hearty bait and fairly easy to catch if you know where and how.
Now I LOVE Squid, but it is not a bait you would choose to fish in a Tuna bite.
There is nothing better than a Big Northern Anchovy either except availability.
The Sardine is one of my favorites, but size varies and quality fluctuates.
And don't forget the brown bait! The Herring, AKA Queen Fish.
Oh what I wouldnâ??t so for some of those at times!
An please don't forget our friends the Mackeral. Oh what a choice!
Even the Tomcod and Lizzardfish have some valuable bait qualities.
But If I had a choice of a full bait tank to travel with anywhere to fish for anything, my money would be on the Smelt!
What's your opinion?
Al "FIT TO BE BIT" Schneider

You don't judge a fisherman by his gear, but by how much time he spends in his
 

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Skipjack , because if your pinning on a skippie your in cabo or east cape fishing for the big boys. (just dreamin) A long winter will do that. Squid would be my favorite if we could get them all year round
i think it would be everyones favorite.
 

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As a kid Anchovies were plentiful, and they were BIG.
I caught a lot of Halibut on those BIG Anchovies.
Smelt ARE a natural food for Halibut, not most other fish.
While Mackerel can work sometimes for most species, they donâ??t always work.
At this stage of the cycle Iâ??ll take a medium Sardine over any other bait.
Medium would be 7-8 inches in my book.
EVERYTHING will eat a sardine at one point or another.

John.
Parker 2320 'FloMar'.
 

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I think John's right about sardines being the best single all-around bait in that almost everything eats them at some point or another. But, my personal favorite is squid. Squid is the preferred snack of my preferred species (YT, WSB, Cali's etc.). And tuna love it too!!
 

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I've seen Yellowtail turn their noses up at Squid and
only want finbait, and the very next day slurp the squid.

John.
 

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Hi FIT TO BE BIT,

Favorite live bait to fish light-tackle inshore would be the 'greenie' or little 3 1/2 to 4 inch mackerel (not the pompanos). They are stronger swimmers, faster, and attract more bites from a wider variety of smaller species than the anchovies supplied here locally.

Love picking them out (seasonal) from the anchovies and have guys wondering what's going on with the hookups. Not bragging .... just happens with me too often to be coincidence. :)



tsurikichi
 

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I have to agree with Fit to be Bit. Smelt are easy to catch, hardy, and leave a scent trail. Besides halibut and bass, smelt are great YT bait especially in the Fall when YT move down the coast near kelp beds on their way to Mexico. Kelp smelt are targeted forage.

WSB feed heavily on smelt, a forage they share the kelp beds with. If you have a boat in a marina, try this test. Put out a bright light, halogen best, on swimstep or attached to dock. First come tiny redish shrimp, then juvenile smelt to hunt them. Then queenfish (herring) to hunt the baby smelt, then and larger smelt come to the light. The activity attracts WSB (yes, all our marinas contain WSB of varous sizes). The WSB will chase the larger smelt until they come to surface exhausted, but dancing the crazy chicken dance on the surface. Then swirl, a WSB will roll on them and slurp. They ignore their cousins, the queenfish. I have caught more WSB on smelt colored swim baits than any other.

Fish the Tides - Freddie
 

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Hi freddie,

You mentioned .....'Smelt colored swimbaits'. I've got this beautiful 7 or 8 inch Megabait smelt colored/shaped swimbait with the fish head-like leadhead to try out on those WSB. Sure looks like a hit-getter.



tsurikichi
 
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