Black Salty Live Bait


The Ultimate Live Bait

in Salt Water
or Fresh Water

Tide Magazine Dec 2004
Saltwater Texas May 2004
Saltwater Angler Aug 2004
Saltwater Texas May 2004
San Antonio Express Jun 2005
Florida Fishing Weekly Oct 2006



Black Salty Press Coverage
Florida Fishing Weekly

By Steve Gibson

New Baits Catch Angler's Eye

When Mike Mahan headed for one of his favorite tarpon spots along the east side of Charlotte Harbor, there were no crabs, threadfin herring, ladyfish, pinfish or any other typical bait you might cast to a hungry tarpon.Florida Tarpon

Instead, in the livewell of his Action Craft flats skiff, Mahan had 18 lively Black Saltys, a new bait in southwest Florida that's rapidly gaining in popularity.

Black Saltys are a farm-raised species of goldfish that have been bred to withstand saltwater for up to two hours. They were developed to replace herring in the northeastern United States. Herring, the stocks of which have been depleted, were the No. 1 bait for striped bass in that region. Stripers there are now being caught on Black Saltys.

Ditto for Florida's snook, redfish and tarpon.

"The company (I.F. Anderson Farms in Arkansas) contacted Robert Moore (a fellow guide) and me to see if we could catch tarpon on them," Mahan said. "We found them to be extremely effective."

The baitfish come in a variety of sizes. Mahan uses "Offshore Black Saltys" for tarpon. They are about 4 to 5 inches in length. Smaller baits are available for other species.

Mahan has been finding plenty of tarpon around Charlotte Harbor. When he arrives at a spot, he'll spend a few minutes to look around. If he sees tarpon rolling, he'll begin to fish. If not, he'll head elsewhere.

"If I see several tarpon in an area, I'll use my trolling motor to get the baits to them," he said.

When a tarpon sees a Black Salty, it doesn't take long for the action to begin.

Mahan jumped three tarpon on the outing. The first fish, a 120-pounder, jumped several times before breaking off. The second tarpon was about 70 pounds and threw the hook.

The third fish wasn't so lucky. Mahan originally estimated the fish at 60 pounds, but upped the guess to 90 as he got the tarpon close to the boat.

"It's wider than I thought," he said. "It's pretty heavy."

Mahan removed the hook, then worked with the tarpon to revive it. He turned the trolling motor on and held the fish as it moved through the water. After a few minutes, the tarpon was ready to go.

"We usually look just for schools of ladyfish," Mahan said. "If you find the ladyfish, you can bet there will be tarpon close by.

"There weren't any visible schools of ladyfish this morning, so I just looked for rolling fish. If the water is calm, that's usually no problem."

Mahan said tarpon action should be good in Charlotte Harbor until the first severe cold front of fall moves through. "That's when these fish will move up the river," said Mahan. "They'll stay in the river until spring."

Late-season tarpon action in Charlotte Harbor can be quite good. And you can usually fish for them without the crowds of summer. "Most people put their tarpon tackle away after July," Mahan said. "These fish don't get a lot of pressure."

Black Saltys are a viable alternative to native baitfish. One tackle shop in the area (Fishin' Frank's in Charlotte Harbor) carries them.

"There are times when you just can't get bait or don't have the time to do it," said Mahan. "You can buy a dozen Black Saltys and you're good to go."

The best thing is that if you have any left over after a trip, you can put them in (unchlorinated) fresh water when you return home.

"I've got an aquarium setup at home and I've kept them for up to two weeks," Mahan said. "They're pretty hardy."

"Black Saltys may be used in Florida in salt water only. They're illegal to use in the state's fresh waters.

For information on the new baits, visit

"They work," Mahan said. "Tarpon, redfish and snook love them."

NOTE: Steve Gibson is the Outdoor Editor of the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota and covers southwest Florida for Florida Fishing Weekly. You can read more of his work at

Gibson is also a guide who offers kayak-fishing trips. Contact him via his kayak-guiding website,  or send e-mail to