Five Baitfish Species You’ll Find in the Marsh

When artificial lures aren't working here are five baitfish to use while fishing the marsh.

When fish turn down artificial lures and cut bait, they can’t turn away from baits struggling at the end of your line. If it’s the bottom of the ninth and you need to win, one of these baitfish might be a homerun.

Mullet Chris Malbon / Debut Art


King of the inshore baitfish, different mullet species are a favorite food for everything from striped bass to tarpon. Mullet connoisseurs prefer individuals that feed over sandy bottom for the finest bait. Apparently, they taste better to gamefish (and even anglers).

Mud Minnows
Mud Minnows Chris Malbon / Debut Art

Mud Minnows (aka Mummichog)

The hardy little killifish is a great bait for flounder, redfish and speckled trout. Easy to catch in a small mesh trap, the minnows will stay alive for hours in the bottom of a cardboard box covered with a blanket of wet newspaper.

Herring Chris Malbon / Debut Art


These come in different varieties. It could be threadfin herring in Florida. Or maybe it’s blueback herring or shad species farther north. No matter where you fish, herring are a likely baitfish worth using or imitating. Some herring species travel into fresh waters, making them great options for heavyweight catfishing too.

Atlantic Menhaden
Atlantic Menhaden Chris Malbon / Debut Art

Atlantic Menhaden

They have been called the most important inshore fish as an essential part of the food chain and a powerful water filter. Menhaden start their life in the marsh where they feed the next generation of gamefish. Too small to use as live bait, the small, silver menhaden are imitated by dozens of twitch baits, soft plastics and swimming plugs.

Scaled Sardine
Scaled Sardine Chris Malbon / Debut Art

Scaled Sardines (aka Pilchards or Greenbacks)

Sardines school up into living clouds of little fish providing a reliable source of food for all types of inshore gamefish. Whether used live, frozen or imitated with all sorts of lures, greenies are a best bet. Scaled sardines are known to spawn offshore and are especially popular on the Southwest coast of Florida.