Ballyhoo (Hemiramphus Brasiliensis) is a quick and streamlined fish that’s the preferred food source of large marine animals. For this reason, anglers who are targeting sport fish are interested in learning how to catch ballyhoo. If you plan on using the fish as bait, you can do ballyhoo fishing or purchase them from a tackle shop in your area.
We recommend you try your hand at catching them as it’s actually easy. As soon as you’ve caught the baitfish, you’ll be able to fish all day!
Ballyhoo Fish Facts
What is a ballyhoo? Ballyhoo baitfish go by various names, such as bally and ballyhoo halfbeak. There are also other parts of the globe that refer to them as bayiho, red-tailed balao, balahu, and yellowtail ballyhoo.
They have elongated or streamlined bodies with extended lower jaws and shorter upper jaws. The most common length of the ballyhoo bait fish is 35cm with a maximum weight of 200g. Mature female ballyhoo grow much larger in comparison to the mature male ballyhoo.
These baitfish are widely distributed across the western and eastern Atlantic. This includes Massachusetts and the Gulf of Mexico, even reaching the Caribbean Sea and Brazil.
In the eastern Atlantic, ballyhoo are also found in Senegal, Angola, and Cape Verde islands. Ballyhoo don’t migrate. Instead, they make seasonal movements, but only when it’s necessary.
How to Catch Ballyhoo
The behavior of ballyhoo baitfish which helps them avoid getting eaten by large predators makes them very easy for anglers to find. Individually, they will be hard to spot on the water.
But, a school of ballyhoo bait fish can easily be seen even from the surface. They’re also very easy to spot when they are driven to the surface of the water by predators.
The streamlined shape of their bodies allows them to swim at high speeds. As they swim fast, they can also skip on the surface like a stone. Take a ballyhoo net and look for the baitfish in areas that have sandy bottoms. They’re in shallow water up to 6 meters deep.
To make it easier for you to learn how to catch ballyhoo, use chum that’s finely ground rather than chunks.
Large pieces will lodge in the mesh of the net and they’ll just feed on them from the outside. Ballyhoo get spooked when you throw the net on them, so use a cast net that’s 7 ft long. You can throw it many feet away from a boat and then catch the fish.
Also, it’s best to wait for the currents to be lively enough so your net can spread out. When the current is light or there’s none at all, your net will simply sink too deep.
What to Catch with Ballyhoo Baitfish
Learning how to catch it is actually pretty simple and you can use the baitfish in catching impressively large species.
This includes marlin, tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and sailfish. Just any species of fish that share the same exact water as ballyhoo won’t hesitate in munching in it. Make sure you check your local fishing regulations before you try ballyhoo fishing and fishing with them as bait.
Additionally, you may have to ensure that you have the appropriate license for recreational or sport fishing in case you’ll be asked to show it.
How to Rig a Ballyhoo Baitfish
When you’ve caught dozens of baitfish, the next thing you need to do is rig them up so you can catch larger species. There are a couple of ways for you to rig ballyhoo. It will depend on whether you want the baitfish to be alive or not.
When fishing with live bait, you need to ensure that you’ve placed ballyhoo you’ve caught in a bait bucket or baitwell that’s not exposed to direct sunlight. A circular well takes a lot of space on a boat; however, it makes for better storage of small baitfish that usually swim in schools.
When placed in a round baitwell, ballyhoo gets to retain a steady pace. This allows water to flow seamlessly over their gills. When they’re placed in a square bait enclosure, they will die faster as they will lose the necessary flow.
To rig live bait fish, snap the beak an inch from its mouth. Make sure you don’t inflict damage on its lower jaw. Just make a quick snap with the use of your hands. There’s no need for a special tool for this. Then, get a copper wire and loop the thin wire around your hook’s bend. The rest of the copper wire should be around the tag end.
Keep it nice and tight. The tag end must be tucked into a twist. Feed the opposite end of your wire onto the lower jaw of the live baitfish. Take extra care that you’re not restricting its mouth from opening. Twist the wire when you’ve pulled it through around the beak’s remaining part. The hook won’t have to go through the fish.
When you’ve found that your ballyhoo bait fish died, don’t worry as they can still be utilized as bait. Use a circle hook, barrel swivel (size 10), and fluorocarbon leader (130-pound test) for rigging dead ballyhoo fish. Feed the wire through the throat of the baitfish then out the mouth. Don’t forget to bury the end of the rigging wire.
Understanding the behavior of ballyhoo bait fish helps anglers catch them. The ballyhoo is a schooling species. This means, as a unit, they swim in one direction.
Baitfish form large schools and then feed on seagrass, decapods, plankton, algae, and smaller fish. Schooling lets them get away from their predators and have a better chance to find a suitable mate.
Ballyhoo schools are at different depths, which will depend on the specific time of day. Target them at night as this is the time when they school a lot closer to the water surface.