One saltwater fish that’s fun to catch but isn’t on the minds of most anglers is the knobbed porgy. That’s a shame because knobbed porgies are easy to catch, put up a fight, grow to a good length, and are great for eating. Knobbed porgy feed on invertebrates, which means bait is always easy to find.
The 5 best baits for knobbed porgy are:
Of all the fish in the sea, knobbed porgy are among the easiest to catch. You must present the bait in a way that they like, which means putting a little bit of thought into how to fish them. Read on to learn where to find knobbed porgy, what bait to use, and how to hook one.
Table of Contents
Where To Find Knobbed Porgy
The range of the knobbed porgy extends from southern Virginia down through the Florida Keys. Porgies can also be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Knobbed porgy are popular in the southeastern United States because they are prolific, are easy to catch, and do not require a ton of extra or specialized equipment.
Knobbed Porgies School
If you catch one knobbed porgy, you can bet that there are more. The fish spend most of their adult lives in schools. While schooling, they will hunt for invertebrates like clams, worms, or small crustaceans, like crabs. About the only time that they are not in a school is when an external event disperses the school. When that happens, they will re-school as soon as it is safe.
From a fishing perspective, it means once you get on top of a school of porgies, the only limit in bringing them in is how fast you can bait your hook and get it in front of them. This is because another trait knobbed porgies have is that they do not travel great distances, except when necessary.
For example, the fish are far more likely to stick to a rocky outcrop or around a shipwreck if food is available and danger from other predators is minimal. Even as members of the school are being yanked upwards, these porgies will stay in place until forced to move on. Their daily travel will not be more than 100 feet from the base they are calling “home.”
Losing The Knobbed Porgy’s Depth
Knobbed porgy also suspend around a security structure, making finding them a bit of a challenge. The school may be at multiple depths as a unit, even though there might be two or three fish in one location within the school. That means you need to pay close attention to your depth indicators when fishing.
If you do not, it is easy to lose the depth that you caught knobbed porgy and you will have to start the process of identifying the depth they are hanging out at over again. This means that the practice of lowering to the bottom and then raising your bait a foot or two may not work. You may find that porgies are hovering up and down the water column in varying numbers.
As mentioned, knobbed porgies prefer areas that give them a relative sense of physical security. Any area that has a harder bottom, including a rocky, stony, or manmade bottom, will be the knobbed porgy’s first choice. Their preferred depth is more than 80 feet deep and they usually will be found at depths ranging from 50 feet to several hundred feet.
These can include any area that has a significant rock covering underwater. Gravely bottoms count as areas with larger rock outcroppings. Given the choice, knobbed porgy will prefer an area with larger rocks because it affords more cover.
If knobbed porgies like rocky bottoms, they love reefsfor all the same reasons, in addition to the food that calls the reef home. Additionally, there are also many areas to hide from predators, as there are plenty of crevices that they can fit which larger predators cannot. Given the choice, a knobbed porgy will choose a healthy reef over just about any other type of living habitat.
Structure comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. The structures most anglers think about are underwater obstacles like shipwrecks, sunken bridges, etc. Rock protrusions, cliffs, and caves also count as structures, as do areas that have tree stumps or fallen trees. Manmade structures can include underwater reefs, shipwrecks, or piles of debris.
To be effective, structures do not need to be completely submerged. Knobbed porgies can be found around bridge abutments, off piers, and around structures deeper underwater. This means that while a boat is a preferred platform to catch knobbed porgy, it is not a necessity. The fish can be caught from the shore if the right structure is within the range of fishing gear.
During their peak mating period, from roughly late January through mid-June, depending on location and water temperature, knobbed porgies will inhabit sandy areas adjacent to mating areas. The fish will tend to hang out there through their mating period and as that period wanes, the fish will drift back as a school to their more natural habitat.
In areas with warmer water, such as off the coast of Florida, the mating season tends to be earlier in the year and runs until late March. For knobbed porgy off the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina, knobbed porgy will tend to mate towards the end of the January to June general cycle.
Access To Food
As with predators on land or in the water, food drives much of the decision regarding where knobbed porgy will reside. The knobbed porgy has very powerful jaws and teeth throughout its mouth and throat that let it crush the shells of clams, snails, barnacles, and crabs. These fish also like to eat starfish.
Occasionally, knobbed porgies will target smaller fish, but other fish are not their primary or preferred food source. Because they are fast swimmers and agile, they can pursue, corner, and kill fish if necessary. Usually, however, a knobbed porgy that goes after a fish is doing so because of a lack of other, preferred food options.
Knobbed porgies migrate from habitat to habitat, driven by depth, depending on the season. During spring and summer, you can find them inshore in water that ranges from 50 to 80 feet. During fall and winter, knobbed porgy will continue to retreat to deeper water until they’re eventually considered offshore. Depths at this point can range up to 300 feet.
Larger knobbed porgies can be caught offshore from mid-October through February. The fish caught then will be larger because they have spent months eating in order to get ready for mating season. Caught males will outweigh females during this period. That trend reverses once porgies migrate to inshore locales.
What Is The Best Bait For Knobbed Porgy?
The best baits for the knobbed porgy are invertebrates, with a preference for marine invertebrates. How those preferences are presented can increase your chances of landing a knobbed porgy. In addition, the specific gear you use and the technique behind using it affect how you catch porgies.
Knobbed porgy are spirited fighters, which can be surprising for their size. This makes them ideal for kids or someone just starting out marine fishing. Light to medium rods and reels are the best equipment for fishing for knobbed porgy. However, you want to be careful to not have gear that is too light, as the fish tend to live in proximity to larger gamefish.
You do not want to hook onto a grouper and have them destroy your equipment because it is too light to hand a larger fish. A five-foot rod is a good starting point, using a 15 to 20-pound test line. If you want to add distance to the line on your reel, use 30-pound test braid. This will give you more line to play with and it is stronger than 15 or 20-pound test mono.
If you are targeting other gamefish and may take porgy as part of that, you may want to use heavier gear. Because you are bottom fishing for porgy, sensitivity is not so much an issue.
The lighter gear should be reserved for when you are fishing for knobbed porgy exclusively because sensitivity can help detect a strike and makes any fight with a hooked fish livelier. When fishing for other species, a spinning reel is best. You can use a baitcasting reel if you are targeting knobbed porgy exclusively.
The best rigging for knobbed porgies usually has at least two hooks, a clip for weight, and heavy-duty mono line. It’s common to have a tri-swivel serve as the main connector of the rigging to the main line. The tri-swivel allows for weight to be added while not interfering with hooks or the main line.
Porgy rigs can be purchased at any marine tackle store, most department store fishing departments, or online at several locations. Anglers can also make their own rigging.
To do this, create the traditional 2-drop, high-low baitholder rig and attach it to a tri-swivel. Attach a weighted leader and weight to one of the other two swivel attachments. If you think you will be switching hooks or weight often, using clips to the tri-swivel is a good idea.
The best technique for catching a knobbed porgy is to fish one baitholder hook directly on the bottom or suspended about a foot above the bottom. The other hook should sit about 14 inches above the lower hook. The weight should hang separate from the bait (which is why a tri-swivel is ideal) and be allowed to either suspend freely or rest on the bottom.
Since porgies are bottom feeders, locating bottom-rigged bait will be as natural to them as finding and ingesting a crab or clam. That fact also means that fishing for them can be done in a few different ways.
These ways are drifting, still fishing, suspending, and targeting. Drifting is when you let ocean currents dictate where bait travels, still fishing is when you drop the bait to a point and hold it in place, and suspending is when you hold the bait within a location. It’s especially effective if the school of porgy is large enough in water columns, while targeting works well around structures.
Narrowing the various types of bait a knobbed porgy will go after is not difficult, because the fish is not particularly picky about what it eats. It is true it would prefer a clam, oyster, crab, or starfish, but it also will eat another fish or a squid in a pinch.
Another factor is dictated by the angler. The type of fishing that is being done helps move specific bait up and down that list. If the bait is squid, for example, and that is what is available to the knobbed porgy, it will eat it with enthusiasm. If, however, a choice is presented, say clam versus squid, it is reasonable to assume the fish will opt for what it is familiar with.
Unusable And Poor Bait Choices
Some potential baits are also unusable. It is illegal, for example, to take a starfish from a bay or ocean in some states. It is also illegal to disturb certain reefs, particularly if the reef is home to any endangered species. This makes collecting starfish or sea urchins off-limits and makes collecting sea snails very difficult.
Additionally, some potential bait options are awful to use as actual baits. Starfish are very fragile. Sea urchins are fragile and very difficult to keep hooked. Collecting enough snails to fish could take hours. For a variety of reasons, most porgy food does not make great bait.
The hierarchies of food preferences for a knobbed porgy are as follows (“likely” is used because like humans, environment and habitat make a huge difference.) These are not necessarily all viable baits, but the list does make clear what the porgy would choose if it had the choice and why those choices make great bait.
These would include invertebrates that are plentiful and easy to catch. The knobbed porgy has large incisors, strong molars, and teeth along its throat, making crushing the protective shell of a clam or crab simple. Those foods are likely the easiest it will encounter without expending a lot of energy or exposing itself to danger.
After the top two choices, shrimp, snails, starfish, oysters, and barnacles would likely be the food of choice. These are as plentiful as clams and crabs but do require a bit of work to find and ingest. To get them, however, a knobbed porgy may have to travel outside of its comfort zone.
Barnacles, for example, are more likely found closer to the surface than the regular depth a knobbed porgy prefers. Snails are also usually found in shallower water and shrimp are active and thus can escape. Starfish are undoubtedly a favorite but starfish are not as abundant in most environments as clams or crabs.
Second Or Third Choices
In this category, other invertebrates that may or may not be marine-oriented come into play. These include sea urchins, seaworms, earthworms, smaller sea snakes, etc. The knobbed porgy will eat them if present, but most either require searching for them or having them presented to them by a third party (such as a fisher using earthworms as bait).
This final category includes foods that a knobbed porgy will eat if presented, but are not the “go-to” menu items if all the other foods are abundant. These baits include fish and squid. They are baits that might be found naturally but more likely are presented attached to a fishing hook.
In this category, one would have to include artificial lures. These resemble baits a porgy will eat but are not the preferred bait. In the right circumstance, however, artificial bait, such as a silvery lure, can be just as effective. With these, the presentation technique is critical.
Verdict On Best Bait
When legal matters are factored in with the ability to collect enough bait to make it worthwhile, a few trends emerge. Namely, clams, shrimp, and squid are the top baits for the knobbed porgy among the various choices of food types. Worms make a great second choice, while fish are not a preferred food.
This article mentions crabs as a preferred bait for knobbed porgies but does not cover crabs in the bait section. The reason for this is that states usually have different regulations pertaining to taking and using crabs for bait. You should check and make sure you are in compliance with all state laws.
Also, make sure you buy your frozen bait from a business cleared to sell frozen bait in the state you fish. There are several rules most states have regarding importing non-native crabs into the fishing ecosystem.
The 5 Best Baits For Knobbed Porgy
Most bait and tackle shops will have frozen clam meat available to use as bait. In most instances, a package will contain 4 to 6 clam bellies. You want to verify how many clam bellies are in the bag so that you do not run out prematurely.
You also can use clam meat without the bellies. This is not preferable because the bellies give girth and aroma to the bait. Some bait and tackle shops will have clam meat minus the bellies for sale as well. Always inspect a package of this type of bait, as you want to make sure the chunks of meat are large enough to stay on your hook.
When using clam bellies as bait, you want to hook it in the meatiest or thickest part of the belly. You then lower the bait to your desired depth. In most cases, knobbed porgy will immediately go after a clam belly.
How To Cast Clams
However, using clam bellies means that you should not cast your bait very far or with very much force. Like most bellies, clam bellies will tear if too much force is put on them. That opens the door for a fish to pull the belly off the hook or for the bait to fall off the hook before it gets to its target zone.
If you use other parts of the clam, the best strategy is to put a chunk of several pieces on your hook at once. This approach is a little more durable than using strict clam bellies, so you can cast it a reasonable distance.
Most bait and tackle shops will also have shrimp available for use as bait. Most shrimp that can be used as bait are live, however, there are some bait and tackle shops that will sell frozen shrimp. You can also mail order shrimp as bait, both live and frozen (although frozen shrimp via the internet fall under some rules).
Hooking A Live Shrimp
Locate the horn at the top of the shrimp, just past its head. The horn runs down the shrimp’s body. Watch out for the gray matter at the tail end of the horn. That is the shrimp’s “ganglion” or brain. If your hook penetrates the ganglion, it will die.
Take your hook cross-wise to the shrimp’s body and hook it under its horn so that when you hold the shrimp up the shrimp’s body and the hook make a “t.” This lets the shrimp move about freely and it does not restrict its range of motion. If there is a predator fish, in this case, knobbed porgy, in the area, it will go after a kicking shrimp.
Hooking A Frozen Shrimp (With A Cinching Trick)
Run your hook starting at the back of the shrimp above the “undercarriage” where the legs are but not so deep that it penetrates into the upper shell. Run the hook up the shrimp’s body and bring the hook out of the head of the shrimp. Your shrimp is hooked at this point, but the fragility of the shrimp’s body will mean the hook will rip out if you cast it.
To avoid that, make a look above your hook with your running line. Twist the loop to close it, then extend it down onto the body of the shrimp. Make sure you do not take the hook up to the ganglion region of the shrimp but remain around the middle of the body. Taking it as high as the ganglion can cause the shrimp to rip mid-cast.
Tighten the loop, and your shrimp will be securely attached to your hook, even when you cast it.
Another way to hook shrimp is to hook them crosswise through the body and put two or three on a hook. This is an effective way to drop fish and it also is a good way to use shrimp that are nearing the end of their run as viable bait. As shrimp degrade, they become more and more fragile. Eventually, they will not stay on the hook for very long.
One way to combat that is to use the glob method. Hook crosswise as mentioned above, starting with a relatively stable piece of shrimp at the top of the hook. Put suspect pieces of shrimp or a degrading shrimp body in the middle. Put another stable piece of shrimp at the other end of the hook, effectively creating a “sandwich.”
This method can only be used if you are drop fishing. Casting it will likely mean the hook rips free. By drop-casting it, however, you get to use up your bait and degrading shrimp become pungent, which will attract almost all fish.
Squid are another bait you can buy at a bait and tackle shop, online, or, in many cases, at your local grocery store. Here is how to attach them to your hook.
For Strips Of Squid Meat
Cut squid into strips based on your hook size. You want the squid to be about double the length of your hook.
Work your hook into them starting a third of the way up the strip. Bring it down the strip and put it back through the bait about a third of the way at the other end. This type of rig will hold on to most hooks for a long period. It also can be cast effectively with little worry about it ripping through.
How To Prepare Entire Squids
Cut off the head. Cut the squid to your desired length, usually anywhere from one to two inches. Squeeze the bait section and remove any cartilage. Squid have cartilage that can impede a hook that runs the length of the squid’s body.
Once the cartilage is out, push your hook through the elongated portion of the squid and out the other side. Rotate the hook and push it back through the bottom end of the hook. Push the entire squid up onto the shaft of the hook. Make sure that the entire bait has pushed up past the barb on the point of the hook.
Do not overfill the hook with squid. This makes it harder for the point and barb to set and when you set the bait on a fish that is biting it will rip the wad of squid from its mouth, rather than hook it.
You can use any earthworms you choose, but generally, the thicker the better. If you can get them on your own or buy them, the recommended worms for sea fishing are nightcrawlers. These last longer in saline water, move around more and their thicker skin ensures they stay on the hook longer than other worms.
The best approach for using fish as bait is to cut it into chunks and skewer the fish on the hook, running it through both sides. Make sure that the fish chunk is pushed past the barb on the hook to ensure that you can cleanly set the hook.
Knobbed porgy have particular tastes when it comes to preferred bait. Clams, shrimp, and squid work best, followed by worms and fish. The most important thing to remember with knobbed porgy is that their habitat is diverse, and they can be found in many places, so you should not rule any area out.