SPEARING, A GREAT FLUKE BAIT & MORE
Gaining an understanding of baitfish is key to understanding how to catch their predators. Spearing is one of the most populous baitfish in Mid-Atlantc bays and marshes. Their habitat is predominantly the water's edge. They are found swimming in the mouths of rivers and streams that connect to the ocean. These small schooling fish rely on grass beds for shelter from predators as well as safe havens for spawning. Spearing are the most predominant of the narrow profile saltwater baits emulated by anglers.
Silversides, one of the other names by which spearing are known, are rarely longer than 6 inches. They have a short head, large eyes, a small, toothless mouth and a slender body with a rounded belly. The upper portion of their body is grey/green in color with a translucent to white underside. The Silverside takes its name from the metallic silver stripe that runs along both sides of its body. It's appearance is much like that of the bay anchovy but with a smaller mouth. During the full or new moon and the highest of the high tides, spearing gather in large schools to scatter their eggs along the sandy bottom of the Estuary. The eggs hatch in about 5 to 20 days depending on water temperature- the warmer the water the quicker the hatching. Temperature also determines how many of the larvae will become male or female. Cooler water results in more females with warmer water temperatures resulting in more males.
Their lifespan is short at 2 years- most die after they spawn. Spearing are excellent live bait for fluke, and are commonly used by Party Boats specializing in Fluke. They are also excellent baits for snapper blues and growing stripers, and make great chum for larger game fish. Their numbers and small size make it easy to chum a handful at a time to keep a steady stream flowing. Catching your own spearing is not difficut, and they store for months in the freezer in a ziploc. All you need is a net and access to the water.
This is a common baitfish along the entire Atlantic coast. Silversides should be used with small hooks. Using real spearing is good as the bait is scented which helps to get fish to bite. Their small size means they can come off the hook easily, so that is why scented artificial baits like gulp can be a good substitute. If the spearing are in good shape, they stay on the hook reasonably well if you hook them through the eye. When fishing spearing, use light tackle for fluke in the surf. You only need to cast about 100 to 150 feet, then cast/retrieve rather than than let it sit. A 1 oz. sinker on a Sneaky Pete rig should do the trick. If you are spring fishing the back bays, or focusing on fluke in this early season, spearing and their immitators should be your "go to".