White flag = shrimp.
Yellow flag= usually means croaker, but could also mean the shop has piggy perch.
Green flag= finger mullet
Blue flag= Piggy perch
No flags- dead shrimp or frozen bait.
Keep in mind, that there is not an official universal flag system. This tradition dates back many years and just like each bait shop has it’s own personality don’t be surprised if you find few different interpretations of what each flag represents along the way.
Choosing the right bait...
White Shrimp - Generally available at bait shops from August through November. Excellent for trout, redfish, black drum, gray snapper and flounder. Down side - during warmer months live shrimp also attract hardheads, perch and a variety of other bait stealers.
Croaker - Available May into September, when bait trawlers are allowed to take 1,500 croaker each day. Excellent live bait for trout, redfish and flounder. Down side - expensive and difficult to keep alive.
Pink shrimp or hoppers - Usually are available in spring. Keep a lid on these, otherwise they'll jump out of the bucket. Excellent for trout, redfish, black drum, gray snapper and flounder. Down side - during warmer months live shrimp also attract hardheads, perch and a variety of other bait stealers.
Brown Shrimp - Availability usually peaks during May into July. Bait quality equal to other shrimp.
Piggy Perch - Available July through late October. Bait quality about the same as croaker and sometimes a little cheaper. Generally not considered a good surf-fishing bait.
Pin Perch - Generally available spring, summer and fall. Good redfish bait, live or cut. A favorite of sail-liners.
Finger Mullet - Generally available spring, summer and fall. Excellent redfish bait, live or cut. Smaller ones make good live bait for trout and flounder. Illegal to possess mullet 12 inch or larger from October 1 through January.
Mud Minnows - Available year round but more likely to find in spring summer and fall. Good live bait for flounder and larger mangrove snapper.
Mantis shrimp (aka sea lice) - Limited availability at bait shops January through March. Excellent bait for big black drum and redfish, dead or alive.