| More than you ever want to know about the Sand Flea .............
Sand fleas are small crustaceans that live buried in the sand in the "intertidal" or"swash zone" of the world's beaches. What
is the "swash zone "? It's that part of the beach where the
waves start to collapse on the beach and goes up the beach
as far as the waves go. In the picture on the right, its from
the white water where the waves crash on the beach to the
end of the wet (dark part) sand up the beach. Tough place
to make a living.
They live here as they depend on the action of the waves to
break loose plankton and organic debris on which they feed.
They are like other crabs in that they have gills and take
oxygen out of the water to breathe. They can be kept out of
the water for a few days under certain circumstances that
we will talk about later. But normally, they live their whole life
under water buried in the sand.
They use their legs to dig in the sand. One odd thing about
sand fleas is that they always travel backwards, never
Contrary to what most people think, the large long arrow shaped shell on the bottom, known as the "digger" locally, is not
used to dig, but to covers the soft underbelly of the sand flea, is used to anchor the flea into the sand when it is feeding. It
also covers the eggs of the female. The correct term is the
" telsor ".
Sand fleas use their four legs to dig into the sand.
To dig, the sand flea must have "liquid sand". What
I mean by this is that the sand must be saturated
with water in order for them to dig. They can not dig
in dry sand or even damp sand. Try it sometime,
place a live sand flea on some damp or dry sand,
they normally will just sit there.
So, to find a sand flea, you need to find sand that is saturated with water. This is sand that is usually covered by water most
of the time. In my experiences, this is the area of darker sand, from where the last waves begin to break (the "LIP") to a few
feet up the beach. The "LIP" is that small area, usually about a half a foot tall, that separates the hard, flat bottom of the
ocean from the soft beach sand. It is usually identified by:
1. Being about a half foot higher than the smooth ocean floor.
2. Be very soft, almost liquid when you step on it, does not support your weight.
3. Usually darker than the ocean bottom sand.
4. The place where the waves never recede past when they go back down the beach before another wave comes in.
Below are two pictures of the lip area on beaches in the Destin area.
I have found most of the sand fleas are located shoreward from the lip up the beach a few feet. Normally, you will find the
smaller, younger sand fleas farther up the beach with the more mature, larger female fleas farther down the beach closer to
You ask, how do you tell a male from a female? Not really that important, as they all taste good to fish I suppose, but if you
really want to know:
Females are larger (1/2 to 1") than males (1/3 to 2/3 " longer).
When pregnant, the eggs are visible under the digger (telsor).
The eggs are normally orange. Most people believe that The eggs turn brownish-orange as they reach maturity and
the pompano are attracted to fleas with the orange eggs. these are about ready to hatch.
They live about 2 to 3 years.
They take about a month to develop the eggs before they hatch, with the eggs turning from bright orange, to dark
brown-orange to gray before they hatch. They hatch after sunset. They may deliver up to 5 times a year.
Sand fleas are filter feeders. They feed on plankton and organic material dislodged by the action of the waves. They do this
by burrowing down into the water-logged sand in the intertidal zone, facing seaward. After the waves pass over them and
then begin to recede, the sand flea sticks its two antennae up from the sand to form a funnel from which it collects the loose
organic material/plankton from the receding waves. The material collects on their antennae and they then direct it into their
mouths. They only do this when the waves are receding. Here are some pictures of feeding sand fleas.
When feeding, their antennae form a V that can be seen in the receding water. Some pictures of a sand flea burrowing into
Starting the dig Note the bubbles formed while digging down. This is one
way to find sand fleas, look for the bubbles,
Right, a flea almost buried.
Sand fleas move up and down the beach with the tides, always staying in the water-logged sand. Low tide is probably the
best time to find them as they are all congregated just
shoreward of the lip. As the waves crash ashore, the
sand fleas are become dislodged and you can see them
in the summer swimming back toward the sea and burying
themselves in the soft sand.
During the summer months, from about May through August,
the sand fleas tend to aggregate in colonies. It is thought they
do this for breeding purposes.
As the temperatures cool down, they tend to scatter and also
dig deeper into the sand. During the coldest times of the year,
they are usually deep in the sand and also are thought to
' move out to the soft sand further from the beach.
Prime surf fishing bait
|Left: "here's looking at you"-
the front of the sand Flea. The
two anntenna can be seen on
top - They are what form the
telltale "V" in the sand that we
will talk about later.
It's two eyes on are on "stalks"
and can be seen below the
Right: A rear view of the sand
NOTE: There are real "fleas"
that live in the sand in other
parts of the world and they do
bite. They do not look
anything like our "sand fleas"
and we do not have them
here on our beaches.
AN AREA OF ALMOST LIQUID SAND
THAT SEPARATES THE BEACH SAND
FROM THE OCEAN BOTTOM SAND,
WITH ABOUT A 6" LIP
|Notice the color change from the clear water of the gulf to the gray
water where the waves mix the sand and water.
---------------------This is the LIP----------------
HOW DO I CATCH LIVE SAND FLEAS?
ONCE I CATCH THEM, THEN WHAT, HOW DO I KEEP THEM?
HOW DO I PUT A SAND FLEA ON THE HOOK?