Springpad - P90X and Hammer's Other Sports Agendas

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Fishing Bait For Next Week

On the panhandle beaches, one bait that is prized by Destin's surf fishermen is the small animal we call the Sand Flea.  Both the
pompano and red fish love this little crustacean and we consider it the best bait when fishing for these two fish in the surf. So, if
you want to learn a little more about it and how to use it as bait, read on.

First, what we call a "sand flea" is not really a "flea" and will not bite you or harm you in any way. It is actually a type of crab -
without the claws.  In other parts of the United States, it is referred to as a "Mole Crab" or "Sand Crab" and can be found on
beaches throughout the world. It's scientific name is
Emerita talpoida or  Emerita benedicti, which are the two species found on
our beaches. So, what does a Sand Flea look like?

 TOP, SAND FLEA FACING TO THE LEFT                                                BOTTOM, FACING TO THE LEFT

OK, now we know what a "Sand Flea" is, how do you get them so you can use them for bait?

Several options here -

- They sell frozen sand fleas in most bait stores. They are ok but are pretty
fragile and I can not get them to stay on the hook well. Also, with anything
frozen, am not sure if it releases much scent.

- Some bait shops sell live sand fleas, but you really can't find them very often,
mostly only in the summer months.

- You can try the Gulp artificial sand flea. I have heard of people
catching fish on them. The other Gulp products are good, ie I have had
good results with the Gulp Shrimp. Several colors available, the New
Penney is always popular. Just take some baggies with you to
use as gloves because its hard to get that smell off your hands.

With a sand flea rake. This is a metal scoop that you run through
the sand as the waves recede. They can be bought at the local
bait & tackle stores for around $ 30.00 +/-.

To catch a sand flea, first you have to find them. In the summer months (May to August) it is easy as they form colonies and are
easier to find. I usually stand at the water's edge and look down the beach.  This may take several minutes, but after awhile, as
the waves recede, you will start to see the colonies of sand fleas with their telltale v 's (antennae). You can also see the bubbles
formed when they rebury themselves.

The sand flea is sensitive to pressures and will remain buried
or move if it senses people walking near it.  You might have
better luck for them early in the morning before the beach is full
of people. However, they can be caught on a beach full of
people. You need to stay maybe 10-15 feet away while
looking for them.

Once you locate a colony, note their location. Some people
get out of the water and walk on the dry sand until they are
directly above them on the shore about 10-15' away.

Either way, note their location, and when a wave moves in, run to where they were and make a deep sweep into the sand,
pulling toward you as the wave recedes. Go as deep as you can.

Once you have made your sweep of the rake, hold the rake vertically in the water as the next wave washes out and let the
receding wave wash the sand out, leaving only your sand fleas and what ever else is there.

In the winter months, good luck. The sand fleas are scattered throughout the sand and are usually a lot deeper. You will not see
the tell-tale Vs on the beach as they are hibernating. To find them in the winter, you need to use a shovel and just blind dig in
soft sand away from the shore. Any sand that you foot sinks into is good. Look for a congregation of seashells (usuallly Coquina
clams) where the waves break, sometimes this is a sign there might be fleas below.

Once you catch them and you are staying on the beach, you can just keep them in your rake with a little wet sand on top of
them. Lean your scoop up against you fishing rod sand spike to keep them inside. Ever so often, depending on the temperature,
refresh them by rescooping some fresh wet sand/water.

If I want to keep a lot to take home, I carry a small soft cooler with me and put some wet sand in it. Sling it over your shoulder and
dump them in it as you scoop.

If you plan on keeping them longer, they will stay alive for 3-5 days out of the water. The two main factors that will kill them are:

- heat

- and their own waste products (urine).

To keep them overnight, get a cooler or 5 gallon bucket. Put about 3-6' of wet sand in it. You do not want water in it. A cooler is
best as it maintains the temperature better and you can leave the drain open to drain any water. Just like crabs, if you leave
them in water, they will die as they use up all of the oxygen quickly. Keep them in the shade. If it is real hot, put some ice in the
cooler. You need to change the sand daily and refresh it with fresh saltwater to get rid of the urine.

Yet another way to keep them alive is to put them between damp pieces of newspaper and keep them in the refrigerator.  I am
sure your wife will not mind.

If you want to freeze them for use later, you need to blanch them. Boil some water and dump the fleas in it for about 10 seconds,
then put them in a baggie in your freezer.

Many different ways to hook the sand flea.  They are hard to keep alive once hooked but I really don't think it is necessary to
keep them alive as they just try to bury themselves in the sand
where the fish can's see them. So, I just take a hook and bring
it up from under the flea and out the top of the shell, leaving
the barb exposed. But, like I said, many different ways.

For some more ways to hook them, go to this web site:
Southern California Surf Fishing
                 More than you ever want to know about the Sand Flea .............
Sand fleas are small crustaceans that live buried in the sand in the "intertidal" or"swash zone" of the world's beaches.  What
is the "swash zone "?  It's that part of the beach where the
waves start to collapse on the beach and goes up the beach
as far as the waves go.  In  the picture on the right, its from
the white water where the waves crash on the beach to the
end of the wet (dark part) sand up the beach.  Tough place
to make a living.

They live here as they depend on the action of the waves to
break loose plankton and organic debris on which they feed.
They are like other crabs in that they have gills and take
oxygen out of the water to breathe. They can be kept out of
the water for a few days under certain circumstances that
we will talk about later. But normally, they live their whole life
under water buried in the sand.

They use their legs to dig in the sand. One odd thing about
sand fleas is that they always travel backwards, never

Contrary to what most people think, the large long arrow shaped shell on the bottom, known as the "digger" locally, is not           
used to dig, but to covers the soft underbelly of the sand flea, is used to anchor the flea into the sand when it is feeding. It
also covers the eggs of the female. The correct term is the
" telsor ".

Sand fleas use their four legs to dig into the sand.

To dig, the sand flea must have "liquid sand". What
I mean by this is that the sand must be saturated
with water in order for them to dig. They can not dig
in dry sand or even damp sand.  Try it sometime,
place a live sand flea on some damp or dry sand,
they normally will just sit there.

So, to find a sand flea, you need to find sand that is saturated with water.  This is sand that is usually covered by water most     
of the time. In my experiences, this is the area of darker sand, from where the last waves begin to break (the "LIP") to a few        
feet up the beach.  The "LIP" is that small area, usually about a half a foot tall, that separates the hard, flat bottom of the            
ocean from the soft beach sand. It is usually identified by:
  1. Being about a half foot higher than the smooth ocean floor.
  2. Be very soft, almost liquid when you step on it, does not support your weight.
  3. Usually darker than the ocean bottom sand.
  4. The place where the waves never recede past when they go back down the beach before another wave comes in.

Below are two pictures of the lip area on beaches in the Destin area.

I have found most of the sand fleas are located shoreward from the lip up the beach a few feet. Normally, you will find the          
smaller, younger sand fleas farther up the beach with the more mature, larger female fleas farther down the beach closer to       
the water.

You ask, how do you tell a male from a female? Not really that important, as they all taste good to fish I suppose, but if you        
really want to know:

Females are larger (1/2 to 1") than males (1/3 to 2/3 " longer).

When pregnant, the eggs are visible under the digger (telsor).

The eggs are normally orange.  Most  people believe that                The eggs turn brownish-orange as they reach maturity and
the pompano are attracted to fleas with the orange eggs.                  these are about ready to hatch.

They live about 2 to 3 years.

They take about a month to develop the eggs before they hatch, with the eggs turning from bright orange, to dark                       
 brown-orange to gray before they hatch. They hatch after sunset. They may deliver up to 5 times a year.

Sand fleas are filter feeders. They feed on plankton and organic material dislodged by the action of the waves. They do this      
by burrowing down into the water-logged sand in the intertidal zone, facing seaward. After the waves pass over them and          
then begin to recede, the sand flea sticks its two antennae up from the sand to form a funnel from which it collects the loose      
organic material/plankton from the receding waves. The material collects on their antennae and they then direct it into their        
mouths. They only do this when the waves are receding. Here are some pictures of feeding sand fleas.

When feeding, their antennae form a V that can be seen in the receding water. Some pictures of a sand flea burrowing into        
the sand.

                     Starting the dig                                                      Note the bubbles formed while digging down. This is one
                                                                                                   way to find sand fleas, look for the bubbles,

                    Right, a flea almost buried.    

Sand fleas move up and down the beach with the tides, always staying in the water-logged sand. Low tide is probably the          
best time to find them as they are all congregated just
shoreward    of the lip.  As the waves crash ashore, the
sand fleas are become dislodged and you can see them
in the summer swimming back toward the sea and burying
themselves in the soft sand.                                        

During the summer months, from about May through August,
the sand fleas tend to aggregate in colonies. It is thought they
do this for breeding purposes.

As the temperatures cool down, they tend to scatter and also
dig deeper into the sand. During the coldest times of the year,
they are usually deep in the sand and also are thought to
'   move out to the soft sand further from the beach.
Sand FleasPrime surf fishing bait

Left: "here's looking at you"-
the front of the sand Flea. The
two anntenna can be seen on
top - They are what form the
telltale "V" in the sand that we
will talk about later.

It's two eyes on are on "stalks"
 and can be seen below the
Right: A rear view of the sand
EYES - - - - - -

NOTE: There are real "fleas"
that live in the sand in other
parts of the world and they do
bite. They do not look
anything like our "sand fleas"
and we do not have them
here on our beaches.

________SWASH ZONE______________________


Notice the color change from the clear water of the gulf to the gray
water where the waves mix the sand and water.

---------------------This is the LIP----------------

                 Feeding sand fles
Feeding sand fleas

                                Feeding sand