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Quick Guide to Live Baitfish in Southern California

Southern California is very lucky to have such an abundance and array of Live Baitfish in local waters. This is a simple guide to help you identify them.
Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus): Most commonly known as Green back mackerel, Greenbacks,or Greenies. These are the most popular baits with kayak anglers when fishing pelagics in Southern California and Baja. Typical preferred size is 5-8.

Jack Mackerel(Trachurus symmetricus): Primarily known as Spanish mackerel, or simply Spanish. Less preferred than the Pacific Mackerel however these can make great bait when fishing for just about any species. Preferred size is typically 4-7 .

Top Smelt(Atherinops affinis): Known as simply Smelt by most anglers, they are not usually preferred for bait however dont let that fool you. Halibut and many other bottom dwelling fish love them. Size preference will vary by species fished however 3-7 will be most common.

Pacific Sardine(Sardinops sagax): Sardines are one of the most versatile baits in the Pacific. Pretty much everything will eat a sardine in just about any size. These baits are not quite as hardy as mackerel so take care not to hold them too tight or leave them out of the water for too long.

Anchovy(Engraulis mordax): Like a sardine, anything will eat an anchovy. While they are not as popular of a bait for kayak anglers, due to their fragileness, these little baitfish are a favorite for most anglers due to their versitility. Anchovy tend to run on the small size and will most often be found in the 3-5 range.