If you've read any of my surf fishing reports, you've probably seen me mention Fishbites artificial bait. I use it everywhere one might fish with shrimp. I've found fishbites to be just as effective as natural shrimp for atracting fish and getting bites. The biggest benefit of using Fishbites over natural shrimp, is the ability of fishbites to stay on the hook. Anyone who has fished with shrimp, kows how easily shrimp will fall off the hook. The soft shrimp bodies are not very durable. Fishbites, however, is very difficult to get off the hook. I frequently resort to scissors, to remove fishbites from my hook when changing baits. Fishbites is basically strips of a very durable mesh, covered in a compressed layer of shrimp stuff, that slowely softens and dissolves in the water. When you hook a piece of fishbites, the hook goes through the mesh and the barb catches on the mess, so it's very difficult to remove. I frequently catch several fish on one piece of fishbites. I was very happy too learn that fishbites are made right down the road from us, in St Augustine, FL.
From the fishbites website "Fishbites are the result of a lifelong passion for fishing and decades of scientific research. Carr Specialty Baits, Inc. (CSB), maker of Fishbites, is a family-owned business founded in 2000 in St. Augustine, Florida, by avid angler and world renowned marine researcher Dr. William Carr and members of his family."
I highly recommend you give Fishbites a test run and try it out for yourself !!
This time of year (fall and winter) finger mullet are usually plentiful in the surf. The mullet can usually be found in fairly shallow water, depending on tide and surf conditions. As you can see in the above picture, the mullet can sometimes be found in water less than ankle deep. The mullet are all heading south down the coast. Sometimes when the tide is high or lots of predatory fish are about, the schools of mullet will be visible out in the surf, but too far out to reach with the cast net. But even on these occasions, some schools get washed in by the waves, to within reach. In the picture above, I was standing in ankle deep water, watching just below the surface for for schools of mullet. I guess I was seeing about one large school of mullet every fine minutes on average. I was standing with my cast net ready, and when I spotted the school of mullet, I tossed it in their direction. We caught more than enough for bait, and I put a few quart bags away in the freezer, for later use. It really is as easy as it looks. I learned to throw the cast net by watching Youtube videos and practicing throwing the cast net in the back yard. I use a net with a 12ft diameter.
It's very easy to put up finger mullet for future use. During the late summer, fall and early winter, when mullet are plentiful in the surf, I typically put a few dozen bags of mullet in the freezer. When I return home from fishing at the beach, I simply dump out my left over mullet in the grass, rinse off the sand, and put them in pint and quart bags. I put these in the freezer, and during the rest of the year, I just grab a bag or two and head to beach. They thaw very quickly at the beach and are usally good for a couople more days if put them in the fridge between fishing trips. Mind you I have an old fridge in the garage that is used mostly for bait (and a few beers) as it tends to smell a bit fishy.
One of the very best baits, for surf fishing at Jacksonville Beach is finger mullet. Finger mullet are freely available in the surf, several months of the year. All you need is a cast net,and you can pull in more finger mullet than you'll know what to do with. The mullet in the picture above were caught August 17th 2013. It was the first school I saw last year at the beginning of the mullet run, which usually starts in the Fall and runs into the Winter. From August to January, I can typically catch enough live finger mullet to fish with, plus plenty more, which i freeze in quart bags for later use.