Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

How do you catch sand fleas?

The best way to catch sand fleas is to dig in the sand with either a sand flea rake or with your hands as the waves wash up onto the beach. Sand fleas will extend their feeding legs to catch food as the wave washes over them exposing their locations in the beach sand.

Sand fleas, a.k.a. mole crabs are the little delicacies that pompano, whiting, croakers, redfish, sheepshead……. and many other species of fish that you catch off of the beach love to eat. Because so many fish love to eat this little crab, fishermen just can’t seem to live without them either.

These crabs live in the wet sand next to the waters of the ocean. They bury in the sand and extend their front antenna which are specially equipped to trap food that is in the waves. These little crabs can be found in very large groups as they migrate down the beaches slowly searching for food that is brought to them with every wave that crashes onto the sandy beaches where they live.

You can see the large groups of sand fleas right after a wave recedes from the sandy beach. They will raise their front antennae to sift through the water for plankton and you can see their antennae. They look like a lower case “m” or a curvy “v” in the sand and there will usually be dozens of them in the same area.

I am a FISHING CHARTER CAPTAIN on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have fished the beaches, grass flats, oyster bars….. all over Florida for over 40 years. In the article below I will tell you everything that I know about catching and fishing with sand fleas.

Watch the video below and learn how to catch a pompano using sand fleas.

The hardest part about catching sand fleas is finding them. The beach that was full of them one day will be barren the next. These little crabs can really get around and the move with the waves and the tides around the beaches.

These little crabs only grow to about 2 inches long at the biggest and those are the females of the species. The males only get to about 3/4 of an inch long. These crabs cannot pinch you because all of their 10 legs are for swimming through the sand and the water. These crabs can bury in the sand extremely quick when they need to get away from a predator like a sandpiper or a surf fisherman who wants to feed them to a pompano.

They can sense your footsteps as you approach them and they can see you. Their eyes are on stalks that poke just above the sand to survey their surroundings with. When you see a group of these crabs walk quickly or run to that spot before they can bury deep enough to elude you.

These crabs can also scurry across dry sand very quickly. They do not need to move in the sand because they can move quite quickly above the sand. You can see them run backwards as you dig up a bunch of them with your hands. This is how I have always caught them but there are special rakes that you can buy at your local bait shop that will do the job much more effectively.

You just have to find a big group of them and get between them and the sea to cut off their escape route as the waves recede from the beach. Dig your hands in the wet sand 7 or 8 inches deep and throw that sand up away from the waves. The sand fleas that are in that sand will try to dig if the sand where you threw them is wet. If the sand where you threw them is dry, then they will run on top of the sand towards the water and you can easily grab the big ones that you want to use for bait.

I was going to make an amazing how to catch a sand flea video for this article but there is no way that I could make a better video tutorial than this one. Thank you BlackTip H for making such a great video.

Watch the video below and catch more sand fleas for fishing.

Sand fleas can produce upwards of 50,000 eggs at a time. These eggs are carried on the underbellies of the female crab for 30 days. After 30 days the babies are ready to hatch and take on the world. They hatch in the dark and at the higher parts of the tide to help them escape their many predators that would love to eat them.

They wash out to see and go through their larval stage for and continue developing into a sand flea that we would recognize over the next 6 months. Then they come back to the beach and live out their lives as pompano bait for surf fishermen.

These sand flea eggs are orange colored and that is why orange is such a popular color for pompano fishermen. Pompano really key in on oranges and pinks. Probably because of the sand flea eggs’ colors and the pinkish colors of the crustaceans and clams that they like to feed upon.

How do you store the sand fleas for a few days?

Okay. That is probably about enough on how to catch sand fleas, but how do you keep them alive if you want to store them for a few days?

The key to keeping your sand fleas alive is to keep them cool and wet. If they get too hot, then they will die. If their gills dry out, then they will suffocate. If you submerge them in water, then they will drown once the dissolved oxygen is used up. You just have to create a cool and wet environment for the sand fleas and it is very easy to do.

A very simple technique is to put them in a cooler with a freeze pack and wrap them in wet cloth. This will keep them cool and give them enough oxygen to survive for a few days. The cold will slow down their metabolism and lower their oxygen requirements. You will have to continually wet the cloth and replace the freeze pack when it gets too warm. This means that you will want to bring some saltwater home with you.

This is great way to keep your shrimp alive for a few days. This is also a great way to keep your fiddler crabs alive for a few days too. All of these crustaceans need to keep their gills wet to get the oxygen that they need to survive. You will have to change out the cloth because the crabs and shrimp will eliminate their body waste and poison themselves with it.

If they start to die, then you can always blanch and freeze them.

To blanch and freeze them all that you need to do is put them in boiling water for about 45 seconds and immediately put them on ice. This will toughen them up so they don’t get mushy and fly off of the hooks when you want to use them.

They will we nice and tough so that you can use them whenever you want to. You can also put some food dye in the water with them and make them pink or whatever color that you want them to be.

Why do you need to use sand fleas anyways?

You really don’t need to use sand fleas now that (Fish Bites) have been created. I don’t really know what this stuff is but pompano, whiting, croakers, black drum, redfish….. and many more species love to eat it.

It is like stinky chewing gum that has a cloth backing and comes in long strips. All that you need to do is cut a 1/4 inch piece of the stuff and put it on your hook just like you would with a piece of shrimp, clam strip or sand flea. Put it on your hook and pretend like it is a sand flea and you will catch a ton of fish. I am sure that the bait shops hate this stuff because it cuts down on their frozen sand flea sales.

The best ones are sand flea and clam flavors from what I can tell. They are pink and orange in color. The great thing about these fish bites is that you don’t need a bucket, a rake, a cooler or anything else that you normally need when fishing with live or dead bait. One bag of this stuff is the equivalent of a few dozen sand fleas. If you get two bags then you are set for the best fishing day ever and you know that you won’t run out of bait. That’s about a $12 investment for two bags.


Catching sand fleas was one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid. I have been doing it since I was about 5 years old. I used to like catching the bait as much as I liked catching the fish back then. But now I am older and wiser so I usually skip the bait catching part these days. I go to Walmart or bass pro shops and get some pompano rigs and some fish bites and I am good to go.

I hope that this article helps you catch more fish.

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