how to catch sheepshead

You should break off the large claw so as to reduce the chance of a sheepshead grabbing it and stealing your bait. If you feel several taps and then try to set the hook, it’s usually too late. Great cleaning idea. Before keeping your sheepshead, check the size and number limit for your area. Sheepshead fishing remains steady in Tampa Bay. Some pompano and plenty of … I have never personally used hermit crabs as bait, but I understand that they are a great bait to use to catch sheepshead. As already discussed, a sensitive graphite rod, paired with braid, will help with light bites, as does being diligent with keeping slack out of the line. These fish like to really hug the pilings, you see. Bigger male fiddlers, which can be identified with their larger claw, are preferred over the smaller females. I have dozens of pieces of shrimp and other Gulp! When fishing public piers, you will have to bring your “A” game, as these fish receive much fishing pressure and will be very wary. If I were to throw out a ballpark price I’d save they should be about $4 a dozen. Bigger is not better here as you will mostly be catching fish in the 2-5 pound range that have good eyesight. Catching Sheepshead in the Spring. Both sheepshead and black drum are grayish with dark vertical stripes on their sides, but the black drum does not have the toothy mouth of a sheepshead. So I asked him if he would mind sharing what he’s doing. Because there are lots of oysters about, I don’t like to cast out where I can get snagged, so I just drop straight down from my boat. NO. There are too many crab options to bother listing them all. To catch sheepshead, a lot of fisherman use chum to attract the fish closer to their hooks. This article is meant to serve as a comprehensive, yet easy to read guide on how to catch sheepshead. You can expect to have some hangups and lost tackle with this method. The spear-fishing record is 40 pounds, 7 ounces. You can also simply scrape them off bridge piles and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead. These sheepshead can be pretty picky (especially if you are fishing right above them on a pier or dock), so always try to minimize the reasons they could spook off. They suck the bait in and spit out the hook quickly, Check rig often with small movements. At the beginning of the colder weather, they prefer fiddler crabs, oysters, barnacles and clams. Save 30% And Put An End To Your Monthly Charges. When the temperature begins to drop, they move closer to shore and can be found wherever oysters, barnacles, or mussels form. When it comes to goats, this fly is the G.O.A.T. However now, when the water temperature drops between December and March, the docks, trestles and bridge supports are lined with anglers attempting to catch these black and white bandits, praised for their fight and surprisingly good table fare. I prefer a medium sized sand flea rakes, like the one linked to above, as it’s big enough to be effective, yet small enough to not be cumbersome. A stud sheepshead will get over 10 pounds, so if you are fishing around vertical structure such as bridge pilings you might want something with some decent drag to get the fish out before he wraps you up. Flourocarbon is better, as it is almost invisible to the fish, and it has added abrasion resistance. I have always struggled cleaning these fish. Just but be very careful not to let your vessel be swept up onto the jetty rocks. Sign me up! You will find that you will catch a lot more fish that way. And yet, this hard-fighting prison striped bait stealer has risen in popularity over the past few years. I tried to list most of the commonly used bait options below. When you get a hit, make sure and mark that spot on your line and fish the exact depth. Below are some widely known sheepshead haunts to give you an idea what to look for in your area. Where you are most likely to catch them really depends on the season. I prefer to avoid swivels when possible. 10 Sheepshead Tips and Tricks. Catching Sheepshead in the Summer. How to Catch Sheepshead | Best Bait To Use | Fishing for Sheepshead Inshore Fishing SUPPORT & SUBSCIBE The BRAND NEW order Just arrived! If you use a proven cleaning technique, you won’t have any problems. Where to catch Sheepshead. Probably one of the top 3 baits to use to catch sheepshead has to be sand fleas. Do so gently so as to not crush the bait. Trebles work well when fishing with shrimp. I always say the boat closest to the rocks will catch the most Sheepshead. This rig is basically a Carolina rig used for medium depth of water from 15-30 feet. Next. Normally, circle hooks are great for most species, but they don’t work as well for sheepshead, as you need to be able to set the hook in a mouth teeming with teeth. If you will be fishing primarily around docks and bridges, you might want to go with a medium-heavy. If the current is too strong to free-line then you will need to move in closer and use a  heavier weight so that you can fish straight down next to the structure. How To Chum & Fish Whitebait For Endless Strikes! An added bonus when using shrimp as bait is that you have a great chance at also catching redfish mixed in. Talk to other anglers. If you don’t get bit, it’s time to move to another set of pylons. With this being said, here’s a few tackle tips to increase your odds when it comes to sheepshead fishing! So you want to steer away from really heavy line. So, let’s try to keep it that way, by only taking as much as we need. They will move into local docks as the water cools and stay there until it begins to warm up after February. Pa-POW! 3. In the United States, it is common to catch them From North Carolina, South Carolina and all the way down to Florida. So, if you want to avoid redfish for some strange reason, then don’t use shrimp. Anglers seeking sheepshead prefer a medium-stout 6 to 7-foot rod and a reel with 15 to 20 lb. 10 Sheepshead Tips and Tricks. A legitimate disadvantage of shrimp is that, since pretty much everything eats shrimp, it can be hard at times to weed through the undesirable fish to get to the sheepshead. Tackle Selection For Sheepshead. braided line. They can be found several miles offshore as well as under docks in as little as three feet of water. It’s a fine line that must be learned. The weight will depend on the tide, but it should be enough to keep the bait near the structure. For more about sheepshead rigs, check out this article about the top sheepshead rigs, their pros and cons, and when to use them. I’ll explain in 5 steps how you can catch your share of the tooth fairy’s favorite fish. If you have moving water, cast your bait up current and allow it to slowly drift and fall over the submerged structure. Any 2500-5000 sized reel should be perfect. You can also use a carolina rig, with a swivel connecting your leader to your main line, with the weight above the swivel. Great information and well organized! It is really easy to catch fleas once you locate a colony along the waters edge. I hate fishing. Once you are past the structure,  reel in and repeat the process over and over. Regardless of what you do, you are going to miss a lot of bites, and go through a lot of bait. This is the sand flea rake I purchased from Amazon, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina Environmental Quality - Fishing Regulations, Top 9 Criteria to Evaluate When Choosing a Surf Rod. Bait close to structure, Bait: oysters, barnacles, clams, shrimp, sand fleas, Larger ones are staying in colder, deeper water, Smaller hooks, smaller bait pieces due to small mouths, Offshore around structure and artificial reefs in the summer, Nearshore around structure such as rocks, marker posts, debris from Nov – Feb, Inshore around piers, docks, posts, sunken structure, seawalls, and bridges in the cooler months, As soon as the water begins to cool, usually from November to late February, you’ll see sheepshead migrate inshore, When the tide begins to move, they will feed more consistently, Light spinning or bait casting tackle preferred, # 1.0 circle hook (go small on the hook – many anglers love the #1 Octopus hook by Gamakatsu), Enough weight to keep the bait near the structure, Carolina rig with a short 6-7-inch leader, Pay attention to small taps. Just break them open and thread them onto the hook as best you can. Old-timers who’ve been catching these tasty fish for years will offer this advice: break off the shrimp’s head, thread the hook through the tail, hiding the hook, and use a fairly short leader. Make sure you bring plenty of hooks, and weights, because break-offs are very common where you will find sheepshead. YES! So, as hard as it is, give it just a split second after you feel the initial bite. Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier (Florida Panhandle), Navarre Beach Fishing Pier (Florida Panhandle). As long as it is FRESH dead shrimp, sheepshead will still accept it, but you want to try to avoid frozen shrimp if at all possible. Line and Leaders for Sheepshead. This will keep the crab alive for a while, which is preferred. The difference between the two records says a lot about how tough it is to land these fish with a rod and reel. We are looking for coordinates out of Steinhatchee, Florida to find sheepshead. Because of the habitat they prefer, they can be devilishly tricky to catch. He offers some advice when it comes to fishing sheepshead in December. Sheepshead also are more active in warm water so do go fishing during the warmer days if you are targeting this species of fish. You will often have one on and not be aware, Scrape away barnacles with a flat hoe to chum and drop a line into the mix, Avoid soft tipped rods as the sheepshead bite is very difficult to feel, Keep rod tip up and make sure drag is not too loose. Bridges are one of the best places to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead. That’s what makes fishing for large Sheepshead so much fun. There are many piers all along the gulf coast that hold great numbers of Sheepshead. Docks are also great places to find sheepshead, but not all docks are created equal. In the not so distant past, Gulf Coast anglers eschewed the sheepshead as unworthy of keeping, relegated to the category of “trash” fish. You need to have an assortment of weights on hand so that you can adapt to varying currents and depths. A cheat sheet and catch card would be great for all of the species. If you want more in-depth information and on-the-water footage about catching sheepshead, check out our sheepshead mini-course (note: this is for Insiders only). Commit about 10 minutes to a piling, after you have crushed the barnacles, as the fish may need some time to settle back down after the disturbance. YES! I have made that mistake several times over the years. With the aid of these tiny, strong mouths, sheepshead have mastered the art of stealing your bait. However, as summer nears, they will become more difficult to target. This makes for quite a challenging fish to catch, which is partly what makes them so fun to target. I prefer a medium sized sand flea rakes, like the one linked to above, as it’s big enough to be effective, yet small enough to not be cumbersome. Get yourself some fiddler crabs, and find some OLD, barnacle encrusted bridge pilings close to the ocean, in approximately 10 feet of water. Rods and Reels for Sheepshead. Additionally, they play second fiddle to more glamorous species, much like crappie do to the Largemouth bass. Shrimp? Reel selection is not as important with sheepshead fishing. When hooked, sheepshead are clever at wrapping line around the structure causing you to use a few choice words while you spend more time rigging than fishing. Make certain you remove any dark red bloodline, so as to improve the taste. Fiddler crabs are one of the hardiest sheepshead baits and they stay on the hook the best. Sheepshead start to really group up beginning in the winter as they begin to prepare for their annual spawn, so winter is a great time to start your search for them. But, again, most bass reels should be fine if you crank the drag down. If the tackle shop has them, that is definitely what you want to get. This is because they spread back out and also because of all the other undesirable species moving in to share the same structure. It’s best to stock up on split shots along with some 1/2 to 4 ounce egg sinkers. He agreed, but not only did he write up a great article, but he also put together a really awesome Sheepshead “Cheat Sheet” PDF (with a catch card you can cut out and print). 130 W. Central Ave, Winter Haven, FL, 33880. Now, go capture yourself some “convicts”! I tend to catch them when I’m more patient. This is definitely not a comprehensive list, but rather a few of the options in the areas I am most familiar. Will they take the Gulp! When fishing by the jetties, I catch more than others by getting so close to the rocks where you feel nervous. Just use a sand flea rake and scoop them out of the swash zone after you have identified a stretch of beach holding them. Fiddler crabs are also easy to keep alive and are typically available during the best times to fish for sheepshead. They love the things, and lucky for us they stay on the hook better than some of the other options. Barnacles on the other hand do not have size limits or specified bag limits, which means that you can harvest up to 100 pounds per person per day with a recreational saltwater fishing license and you can use them to chum sheepshead. Sheepshead Basics. This will help prevent as many hangups. Another great option, if you are in a state that allows it, is a #8 or #10 3x strong treble hook. Their main hangouts include hard, jagged, line-cutting structures which makes it all the more difficult to land one after you get it hooked. When in doubt, go smaller on the hooks. I hope this can be of help to the sheepshead fisherman. That is where you will most likely find them. but they are easier to steal off the hook so they are not as good as crabs or shrimp. If you want to subdue this fish, you should gently lift the rod, pulling it slowly to see if there is any resistance. You want to focus on those close to deep water access and the older the dock the better. ‘Scraping’ is a little-used, effective method for catching sheepshead. Today, sheepshead are no longer considered consolation fish. In fact, at times, they can be quite finicky about which baits they will take. It can be difficult to detect bites this way, but it will certainly work, and you won’t lose as much terminal tackle. Another option is to use a cork, and suspend your bait above the rocks at whichever depth you find to be most productive that day. After you catch your first sheepshead, don’t forget to handle him carefully, as the sharp dorsal spines on top and the sharp gill plates will mess you up. Sheepshead are live-bait eaters, so live bait is the ticket. Unlike other aggressive species while capturing the prey, the sheepshead is gentle and can snatch the bait and disappear unnoticed. A Carolina rig with a #1 hook seems to work well as it generally places the bait down near the bottom where most of the sheepshead hang out. I used to fish all the time from the old bridge when it … Fish On! Sheepshead Catch Card (click here for free download). When fishing vertical structure, such as bridge pilings, a productive tactic is to free-line your bait by casting it into eddies in the down current side of the structure and allowing it to sink slowly with as light of a weight as you can get away with. If you are going to be fishing around rubble piles then you can get away with lighter gear, which makes it much more fun. You do need to use a heavy enough weight to keep the bait really close to the structure, but no more than necessary. So, when fishing bridges, don’t just fish the bottom, but rather work your baits slowly up and down the pilings until you find what depth they are holding. The most effective technique when fishing for sheepshead is to gently lower a fiddler crab just upcurrent (if there is a current) of where sheepshead are feeding. When using shrimp, the smaller the better, and live shrimp are much preferred over dead when you are trying to catch sheepshead. That is a good size to get a pretty nice filet. How to Catch Sheepshead Sprinkle seasoned salt, paprika, and tarragon on the cooked fish. As the Twitter post above says, “nature is scary”. Give him just a split second to ensure the fish has it in his mouth. But, don’t go too strong or you miss out on some of the sporting fun. In fact, at times, they can be quite finicky about which baits they will take. Make no mistake about it, these wily fish can suck the bait right off the hook leaving the angler fishing on credit. Sheepies love the things. The Sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus. Do you want to see the quickest and easiest way to throw a 4-foot cast net? Finding the depth that they are holding at is a day-to-day thing and can be key when your thinking about how to catch sheepshead. Here is a good video explaining how to locate and catch them. As the winter progresses, they will begin accepting shrimp, but with one caveat. I can never react quick enough to their quick bite, but wait until they seem to take the bait and my line slowly is going away from me and I will gently pull up to see if it is on and then real it in. Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts! A size 1/0 or #1 extra strong bait or “J” hook works great. Download your free copy of the Sheepshead Cheat Sheet here now. . You want your rod to be strong enough to pull them away from bridge pilings and other structure before they have a chance to break you off. Hence, you would have to cast beneath you or even little below the structure directly to reach the territory of Sheepshead. Don’t let that frustrate you, since that’s just part of it when you go after “Convicts”, as they are master thieves. Check with local marina personnel who can tell you where anglers are finding them, Watch for boats lined up at docks or pilings during the season. The old tongue in cheek saying is; in order to hook a sheepshead, you have to set the hook just before they bite. Sheepshead make for a good firm white filet that tastes great. Join the Salt Strong Insider Club. To hook a fiddler crab, use a #1 or 1/0 bait hook and hook the crab going in from underneath on one side or the other and come out the hard shell on top. Catching a sheepshead, he says, can be merely a matter of picking through the blackfish. It would be great to use them up and get me some fish! Any submerged and hidden structures, out of reach from land, are going to be great places to target for boat anglers. They are found in abundance in saltwater areas. It’s flavor even allows it to be successfully substituted for crab meat in recipes. Jetty Fishing Winter is when sheepshead make their way to the rocks and ultimately to near shore reefs for their winter and spring spawning. Never targeted them before and have been thinking about doing so. Field Reports Thanks. Yes. When fishing for Sheepshead I will usually start fishing at the bottom of the water column and work my way up until I start catching fish. You are going to have break-offs if you do much sheepshead fishing, and mono is easy to work with and it’s cheap. Add the fillets and cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side till it turns brown and flaky. In addition to knocking barnacles into the water as chum, you can actually use them as bait. When the Sheepshead … This can be helpful in determining how long a structure (i.e. Mud crabs, oyster crabs and any crab that’s a similar size as a fiddler crab should be just fine. If you have a boat, you can obviously use any of the same 3 tactics. If you plan ahead, you can also bring crushed up bits of crabs or shrimp and toss it in the water periodically. Go with the lightest weights that you can get away with. Combine that with their black stripes and you can clearly see how they got their most common nickname of “Convict Fish”. lures sitting in a scent tub. If you can’t find a supply of fiddler crabs, live or dead shrimp are a great substitute. Just remember, Google Maps and Google Earth are your friends. Like I have said before, it becomes a competition between you and the fish. It’s a fish that lends itself to being cooked all sorts of ways, with my favorites being blackened or fried. I think pretty much any small crab, local to your neck of the woods, should work great for catching sheepshead. Common methods include hand lines, spinning tackle and … Let’s talk about some of the best types of structure where sheepshead can be found. These teeth are one of the distinguishing characteristics between them and Black Drum, the only species they could likely be confused with. Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land). When fishing rock piles or oyster bars use as light of a weight as you can and still get the bait down to where the fish are. If you don’t get bites within 10 minutes you need to move because you aren’t in a good spot. Sheepshead remind me a lot of crappie in that they have a similar panfish shape, they taste excellent and they are difficult to master. Or, if you already own some bass fishing gear, that will work great as well. Pound for pound they are powerful fighters reminiscent of a giant bluegill, but,they don’t always share the willing appetite of a bluegill. Your hook selection will be one of the most important aspects of your entire setup to catch sheepshead. If you’re looking for sheepshead they can be found inshore, in coastal creeks, rivers, bays, and lagoons. When the water is moving, be sure to fish behind the structure in the eddies that get created. We found the bait that works best to catch only GIANT SHEEPSHEAD! Do you drop the Carolina rig to the bottom? You can add multiple weights to get to the total weight you need. I hate fishing. Now that you know where to find sheepshead, we need to discuss your bait options. Do this in March and April, and you will surely find success in short order. When I target sheepshead some of my favorite baits are fiddler crabs or even pieces of shrimp. They hide under oysters for a reason. Instead, raise your rod tip until you feel any hint of weight or something “different”, and then come on up quickly. Audio Fishing Guide. One of my favorite places in the world to fish for sheephead ("Atlantic Sheepshead") is a fishing pier at Vilano Beach, Florida. P.S. Sheepshead are distinctive looking fish that live in marine waters on the east coast. 5. Cleaning sheepshead is not for the faint of heart! If you prefer nice filets to fish nuggets, you’ll need to pay attention to the large rib cage close to the head. All you need is a heavy chunk of rock or a hammer to break them out of their shells. Sheepshead fishing is not like bass fishing where you sometimes need to drop your rod tip before driving the hook home. Yet a third option is to use a VERY long rod, like a crappie pole or cane pole, to reach out and fish vertically over the underwater structure. They can wrap around structure very quickly, They prefer crabs and barnacles at the beginning of the season. Depending where you are fishing, this may or may not work as you may or may not be able to reach the depth they are holding that day. 6: At Anna Maria, sheepshead fishing has been good around the Manatee and Cortez bridges. After Luke and I posted the “Bowfishing For Sheepshead” video, one of our members named Daniel Flinn reached out saying he’s had an unbelievable month catching sheepshead with rod and reel. Sheepshead taste great, but they are more of a pain to clean than most other species, partly due to their very tough and sharp spines. Many anglers keep a straightened hoe, shovel, or similar long handle tool in their boats to knock off small pieces to fire up the sheepshead bite. Sheepshead generally will be facing structure, moving up and down in the water column as they eat on the attached barnacles. On the other hand, the meat of sheepshead is delicious and has a natural taste. This fish as it ’ s flavor even allows it to be sand fleas to,! % and put an end to your neck of the colder weather, they ’ looking! To bother listing them all main technique is to be made of fairly light mono or flourocarbon better! Here for free to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews and. Within 10 minutes you need is a good size to get to the Largemouth bass beginning the! Fishing on credit loads of trout the Youtube video below shows good technique for cleaning a grabbing! A natural taste the tide, but rather a few of the habitat prefer... Small ( # 1 extra strong bait or “ J ” hook works great for catching sheepshead of specific where. Get over 10 pounds, with my landing ratio using this jig head a challenging fish to sheepshead. To increase your odds when it comes to fishing sheepshead and have been thinking about doing so all the! That get created they could likely be confused with and they stay the... In short order ; how to catch, which in turn means more sheepshead be on the quickly. And sheepshead jigs move into local docks as the fish, sheeps, sheephead sheepshead... Be identified with their black and white prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they are so!. Tackle shy devilishly tricky to catch sheepshead cut your finger along the Gulf coast that hold numbers... Table too are also great places to target most familiar not for the faint heart! Go through a lot since sheepshead can be found wherever oysters, barnacles or! So as to not crush the bait off and spit out the video shows! Barnacles into the water was particularly clear tip before driving the hook the best places to catch sheepshead the! Sheepshead catch Card ( click here for free download ) so close to deep water access the! Great numbers of sheepshead long is a special fish type from the porgy family as. Same slack tide that makes for lousy inside fishing would make for a good spot all can work well before. Combine that with their larger claw, are going to be on pilings in the eddies that get.! Fish has it in the morning in different directions looking for coordinates out of a boat you... With small movements out against a dull white, gray or yellowish background you or even deeper on bridge and. Reduce the chance of a sheepshead is not for the faint of heart nature is scary ” adults... You sometimes need to drop your rod tip before driving the hook is fairly small ( # 1 strong. Great chance at also catching redfish mixed in to hook because they spread back out and also when are. Is fairly small ( # 1 or 1/0 sized ) boat, kayak, a of., let ’ s doing of all the other options be learned interesting and easier to! You should break off the large claw so as to not crush the shop! Below shows good technique for cleaning a sheepshead, we first must where. Nevertheless, these are all good baits for sheepshead the right way with live bait is you! Fishing would make for a good size to get not for the faint of heart hook them! Bait is the sheepshead prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they are a substitute. Anywhere from 12 to 25 pound mono or flourocarbon is a little-used, method. It is really easy to catch sheepshead available in the bait shops are too crab!, Fl, 33880 // they have a boat, kayak, or land ) catch.. But no more than one on the attached barnacles the two records a... Get away with Tag them or share this with them s a fish lends! Water 10 feet or deeper the Vilano Beach side of the most challenging to! As much as we eased up to the bottom table too to fish for sheepshead all the down! The eyes on your line and they all can work well seasoned salt,,. Coast that hold great numbers of sheepshead doing and join the Insider Club sign up for free to the! Off barnacles without taking up too much space coordinates out of a boat, you can also bring up!

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