Anglers use natural bait for much of the surf fishing and pier fishing in the fall. The kind and condition of the bait can make a big difference. Always use fresh bait when you can get it.
Shrimp is a great bait for sea mullet, puppy drum, blow toad, croaker, spot and other surf-dwelling fish. Most tackle shops will have fresh shrimp available. It can be cut up in smaller pieces and then placed on your hooks. Some folks shell it first and others do not.
Squid is another popular bait, and it is almost always frozen and in boxes. Many anglers use squid strips for flounder bait and small cut pieces for croaker, spot and other bottom fish. Detach the tube (body) from the head (tentacles). Then pull the membrane off the tube and slice open the tube and clean it out. Then you can cut strips out of this white meat or cut pieces.
Jumping Mullet is a locally caught bait fish and comes in several sizes. The smallest size is the finger mullet. Fresh finger mullet is available in the late summer and fall. Other times of the year they can be found frozen. The bigger mullet is available fresh almost year round. Either finger or big mullet makes great bait for bluefish, puppy drum, cobia and other bottom fish. The big mullets can be filleted and pieces can be cut from the filet. Many times finger mullet are cut in half or in chunks.
Menhaden is often thought of as the premier bait for red drum, both puppy drum and old drum (big reds). They are oily and are the main forage fish for many of our inshore gamefish. They are not as readily available as many of the other natural baits but are worth doing a little hunting to find. The down side to menhaden is that they do not keep well and will sour very easily. It is important to keep water off of them. Nothing ruins this bait quicker than floating in water in the bottom of your cooler.
Bloodworms are marine sand worms that are imported from Maine and Canada. They have long been a staple for spot, sea mullet and croaker. They are sold 10 to the bag and should be cut into smaller pieces then placed on the hook.
All of the natural baits need to be kept cold on ice, but keep the fresh water off of them. Keep your cooler drained and take care of your bait and it will work longer for you.