Earlier this week, anglers passing the popular 59th Street boat ramp began to see a “Live Bait” sign attached to a modified pontoon. Here, one can purchase a variety of bait from pinfish and crabs to sardines and whitebait.
“During the week it’s mostly guides, but on Fridays and weekends it’s a lot of recreational guys,” said Trey Daugherty, owner and operator of Two Scoops Bait Company. “Each day more recreational guys call me, and they definitely keep me busy throughout the day.”
Daugherty started his bait-selling business in the spring of last year and was so successful he picked up right where he left off early last week. As the demand for scaled sardines and other finned live bait from anglers increases, Daugherty finds himself needing to increase his supply to keep up with rising demand.
“Some days I’m spending four or five hours catching bait. I’m catching about 300 to 400 dozen everywhere from Fort DeSoto all the way to Port Manatee. It’s been tough recently, and I think that’s why a lot of guys come to me,” Daugherty says.
His most consistent spot has been the Sunshine Skyway, but even that is no sure thing.
“The tide has to be moving. If the tide goes slack the bait gets away from the pier and out onto the rocks and flat bottom around it. As soon as the current picks back up, the bait heads back to the pier.”
While many anglers prefer to chum around the structure, Daugherty is always on the move looking for it himself.
“I strictly cowboy, run and gun. I pay a lot of attention to the bottom machine and right now the water is so clean you can see the bait on the bottom. The key is to throw up current and let the net sink back to the bait.”
When his 300 gallons of live wells are full, he journeys back to his barge where the bait awaits its transfer to the next customer. For $25, anglers receive a scoop from a big dip net which equates to about 10 dozen whitebaits.
Anglers are taking advantage of the growing service more entrepreneurial commercial bait catchers like Daugherty are providing.
“Most people want to spend more time fishing and less time catching bait, that’s why I’m here.”
For those interested in his services, Daugherty can be reached at 941-518-6600.