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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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Save yourself net trouble: sibiki your live bait

Many fishing articles mention using live bait. We are not talking shrimp. Most talk of "live bait" means live scaled sardines (greenbacks) or herring (threadfins). Offshore, that can also mean cigar minnows, blue runners or a variety of other baits. What is taken for granted is that you have the ability to get that bait. Usually that requires using a cast net. For me, a cast net also means I have to balance with my old knees on the bow of a moving boat while somehow holding that boat in position. Cast nets can be expensive and take athleticism, skill and practice to use. For many of us, it's not going to happen. The sibiki - or sabiki -- is a good alternative. A sibiki is just a line with several small feathered hooks attached. Add a sinker on one end and then attach it to your spinning rod. I use a special sibiki rod that's a hollow tube with holes for the line and a seat for your reel. You can tie a reel onto a piece of half-inch plastic water line and make your own that will do the same thing.
Why a hollow rod? Until you actually use a sibiki it's hard to understand. Those little feathered hooks hanging out will snatch up your clothing, arms, legs and anything else that gets near. Reeling the hooks inside that hollow tube keeps them out of harm's way. You'll find deeper schools of bait around markers and other structures. Cast or drop the sibiki down to the bait so you can jig it. Bait fish are attracted to those feathered hooks, bite and get hooked. I have even seen a sibiki used successfully from the bank by casting, and it sure works well from a pier. If they aren't biting bare hooks, small pieces of squid on the tips should bring them in. This looks like it will be a summer for active fishing. Huge flounder seem common inside Tampa Bay. They bite well on jigs with white tails. I have been very successful on them drifting over sandy areas. Tarpon continue to be battled at the Skyway, around Egmont and some channels up the bay. American Red Snapper is now "in" while Amberjack is "out." Gag grouper will open up July 1. Remember, getting live baits for fishing is possible without a cast net. For just a couple dollars you can buy a sibiki and give it a try. Now get out there and … Catch 'em up.

Larry Malinoski, a.k.a. the FishHawk, is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 469-7251 or fishhwk@tampabay.rr.com.

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