Tie your leader to the mainline with a double uni knot, and if using clamp on weights, put it right below the knot. If you can find shrimp 1.5 inches long then use the whole shrimp and run the hook through it’s tail and out the underside of the body, thereby burying the shank of the hook. They can be found several miles offshore as well as under docks in as little as three feet of water. When it comes to goats, this fly is the G.O.A.T. This makes for quite a challenging fish to catch, which is partly what makes them so fun to target. Sheepshead, in my opinion, can be one of the most challenging species to catch! Sheepshead spots are not kept so secret as spots for other species. Bigger is not better here as you will mostly be catching fish in the 2-5 pound range that have good eyesight. Once you are past the structure,  reel in and repeat the process over and over. Sheepshead is a special fish type from the porgy family. Step-by-Step Instructions: How to Catch Sheepshead Step 1: Casting Down. Run your finger along the filet to find the remaining small bones and cut them out with a v-cut. A cheat sheet and catch card would be great for all of the species. Another great option, if you are in a state that allows it, is a #8 or #10 3x strong treble hook. Nevertheless, these are great, accessible places to catch sheepshead. If I were to try to sum up a foolproof way on how to catch sheepshead, it would be the following. Do so gently so as to not crush the bait. 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. 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 also are more active in warm water so do go fishing during the warmer days if you are targeting this species of fish. They usually stay very close to these structures and can be seen in clear water circling the supports, randomly chewing off and crushing oysters or barnacles with their mighty teeth. Some spots will have deeper water very close to shore but many will not. Sheepshead Recipe Melt one and a half tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Once they’re out of the water, they’re nice on the dinner table too. He offers some advice when it comes to fishing sheepshead in December. They’re great fun for adults and children alike. Mud crabs, oyster crabs and any crab that’s a similar size as a fiddler crab should be just fine. It is really easy to catch fleas once you locate a colony along the waters edge. Be careful not to use a juvenile version of a protected species. Catching Sheepshead in the Spring. Bigger male fiddlers, which can be identified with their larger claw, are preferred over the smaller females. 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 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. It’s the time of year that we catch huge – ten pounders – sheepshead on light tackle. Sheepshead are very light biters, so you will have to really pay attention when fishing for them, or you will most certainly lose your bait. Catching Sheepshead in the Summer. Other good options are any type of crustacean of similar size. But don’t wait too long or he will chew the bait off and spit the hook. Before we can even get to how to catch sheepshead, we first must determine where to find them. Tackle Selection For Sheepshead. Below is a quick video of a quick way to clean sheepshead (with a normal fillet knife), and you can also learn how to cook sheepshead here. 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. The spear-fishing record is 40 pounds, 7 ounces. How to Catch Sheepshead – Techniques From a Small Boat – Kayak, Canoe Keep your mud crabs in a bucket they can’t get out of, and make sure they’re not in direct hot sun. Sheepshead are built to consume crustaceans, and if there is a favorite it has to be fiddler crabs. Remember, older structure is better. Leave the tail connected to the filet and cut at about a forty-five-degree angle, letting the blade move along the skin to keep all of the meat. Catching Sheepshead in the Fall. Anglers can catch them offshore, inshore, and from fishing piers. If you’re looking for sheepshead they can be found inshore, in coastal creeks, rivers, bays, and lagoons. Weekly fishing reports and TRENDS revealing exactly where you should fish ever trip, Weekly “spot dissection” videos that walk you through all the best spots in your area, Exclusive fishing tips from the PROS you can’t find anywhere else. At certain times of the year they are plentiful along the edge of the surf. 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. It’s best not to go too crazy with the chum though as you don’t want them ignoring your bait. When you get a hit, make sure and mark that spot on your line and fish the exact depth. The difference between the two records says a lot about how tough it is to land these fish with a rod and reel. Fiddler crabs are widely considered to be the best bait to catch sheepshead. Sign me up! Drive your boat, or kayak, up next to the pilings and crush some barnacles into the water. I always say the boat closest to the rocks will catch the most Sheepshead. Here is a good video explaining how to locate and catch them. Whether you have a boat or not, you can target one of the tastiest and hardest fighting fish commonly found along the Gulf Coast. Save 30% And Put An End To Your Monthly Charges. Combine that with their black stripes and you can clearly see how they got their most common nickname of “Convict Fish”. Go with the lightest weights that you can get away with. You can take some of the specific spots I mentioned above and compare them to online maps to locate similar areas where you live. Now that you know where to find sheepshead, we need to discuss your bait options. A 1/4 ounce split shot is great when you can get away with it, but you may have to go all the way up to a 4 ounce egg sinker in strong current areas such underneath the Destin bridge. Flourocarbon is better, as it is almost invisible to the fish, and it has added abrasion resistance. Run your hook through them 2 or 3 times and try to completely cover your hook. Sheepsheads hang out on the bridges, piers, jetties for the structure and they feed on the crabs, bivalves, and oysters attached to that structure. The main technique is to drop your bait to the desired depth, and then keep tension on the line. That’s what makes fishing for large Sheepshead so much fun. Sheepshead are live-bait eaters, so live bait is the ticket. You want to focus on those close to deep water access and the older the dock the better. I used to fish all the time from the old bridge when it … Also, beware that oysters can have regulations and seasons applied to them so they may not be legal to collect from the wild in your area during certain times. Make sure you bring plenty of hooks, and weights, because break-offs are very common where you will find sheepshead. All you need is a heavy chunk of rock or a hammer to break them out of their shells. In December of 2014, these two brothers shocked their clients, friends, and family by quitting their 6-figure jobs to start their dream focused on helping saltwater anglers: 2. Since sheepshead can be rather finicky, you will want to limit the … So you want to steer away from really heavy line. About 1 to 2 feet long is a good length, and the leaders need to be made of fairly light mono or flourocarbon. Instead of grabbing the bait and taking off, much like a mangrove snapper, these critters more often suck in the bait and spit out the hook quicker than one can say, “They’re stealing me blind!”. 2. Remember, their black and white prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they are one of the best bait stealers out there. Leaders should be shorter than you might use with other species, so you can better feel the light bites. These are all good baits for sheepshead as well. It’s flavor even allows it to be successfully substituted for crab meat in recipes. You can catch them year round in most gulf coast areas, but you won’t find them as stacked up and eager to feed as you do during these springtime months. Generally speaking the best time to go after sheepshead is December to April, with the hottest bite being in March and April as they congregate to spawn. There are several good ways to go about it. Sheepies congregate around pilings on the bottom. Shrimp? 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. So, good luck this winter and have fun catching your giant winter Sheepshead, and, like I always say, good luck out there and have fun fishing! So I asked him if he would mind sharing what he’s doing. 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 you are fishing in a kayak, a cheapo machete works great for knocking off barnacles without taking up too much space. Sheepshead Fish | How to Catch. These guys are very commonly caught in the 2 to 5 pound range, but it’s not unusual for them to get over 10 pounds, with the record being 21 pounds 4 ounces (Louisiana). These fish like to really hug the pilings, you see. That is where you will most likely find them. NO. On the right piece of structure you can stumble upon great concentrations of larger sheepshead that have not been picked over by the swarms of shore anglers. I hate fishing. Catch sand fleas using this tool. There are lots of ways to go about catching fiddlers with the simplest being to simply chase them down and grab them with your (preferably gloved) hands. 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. Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land). Structure: docks, piers, marker posts, rocks, artificial reefs, Preferring small crabs, barnacles and oysters over shrimp, Carolina Rig with short leader. And now you know why, during the winter months, all those anglers are lined up right next to the dock posts, trestles, and other structures. On the other hand, the meat of sheepshead is delicious and has a natural taste. If you don’t get bites within 10 minutes you need to move because you aren’t in a good spot. There are tons of rods that will work well for catching sheepshead, but the best rods are going to be sensitive and have a fast action so that you can feel bites better. With this being said, here’s a few tackle tips to increase your odds when it comes to sheepshead fishing! Usually, it takes only one tap, or the line slowly moving to signal fish on. Claim your FREE pack of Slam Shady paddletails. Trebles work well when fishing with shrimp. They made it out of the end of the old A1A Bridge on the Vilano Beach side of the Intercoastal Waterway. Sheepshead are distinctive looking fish that live in marine waters on the east coast. My catch % seems to go up. P.S. You should break off the large claw so as to reduce the chance of a sheepshead grabbing it and stealing your bait. but they are easier to steal off the hook so they are not as good as crabs or shrimp. However, if the shrimp is larger than about 1.5 inches, break it into 2 or more pieces and rig the pieces it a similar way. When the temperature begins to drop, they move closer to shore and can be found wherever oysters, barnacles, or mussels form. They don’t typically take the bait and run like many other fish do, but rather they suck the bait in and crush it, and it is because of this that you oftentimes never feel a bite. 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. 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. They hide under oysters for a reason. Related Articles. 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). 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. Now, go capture yourself some “convicts”! – If you think your angler friends or fishing networks would enjoy this, please Tag them or Share this with them. rod to be strong enough to pull them away from bridge pilings and other structure before they have a chance to break you off. This is definitely not a comprehensive list, but rather a few of the options in the areas I am most familiar. I have never personally used hermit crabs as bait, but I understand that they are a great bait to use to catch sheepshead. a dock) has actually been there. Do you want to see the quickest and easiest way to throw a 4-foot cast net? But, again, most bass reels should be fine if you crank the drag down. In the United States, it is common to catch them From North Carolina, South Carolina and all the way down to Florida. The same slack tide that makes for lousy inside fishing would make for ideal sheepshead fishing at these structures. Hence, you would have to cast beneath you or even little below the structure directly to reach the territory of Sheepshead. Some pompano and plenty of … Setup guide: Slide the sinker onto your main fishing … The last thing you want to do is to be driving around at 5:30 in the morning in different directions looking for bait. Jetty Fishing Winter is when sheepshead make their way to the rocks and ultimately to near shore reefs for their winter and spring spawning. So, as hard as it is, give it just a split second after you feel the initial bite. Pa-POW! 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 can’t find a supply of fiddler crabs, live or dead shrimp are a great substitute. If I were to throw out a ballpark price I’d save they should be about $4 a dozen. 3. It’s a fine line that must be learned. Rods and Reels for Sheepshead. ‘Scraping’ is a little-used, effective method for catching sheepshead. Want to see an easy way to catch loads of trout? Anglers seeking sheepshead prefer a medium-stout 6 to 7-foot rod and a reel with 15 to 20 lb. This will help prevent as many hangups. One of my favorite places in the world to fish for sheephead ("Atlantic Sheepshead") is a fishing pier at Vilano Beach, Florida. I prefer to avoid swivels when possible. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, of course, which I have listed below. But, don’t go too strong or you miss out on some of the sporting fun. 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. Thank you, Tom Watts, Naples, Fl. Sheepshead tend to be on pilings in the deeper water sections of the bridge, so that is where you should start your search. Today, sheepshead are no longer considered consolation fish. The fish move up and down the pylons to feed on the attached barnacles. YES! The sheepshead fish or striped bandit is a wintertime inshore fishing mainstay for many anglers along the southern Atlantic coast down around Florida and up into the Gulf of Mexico. Where you are most likely to catch them really depends on the season. You are going to have break-offs if you do much sheepshead fishing, and mono is easy to work with and it’s cheap. Flourocarbon works better than mono in clear water, and also when you are fishing around barnacle-laden pilings. Rather than purchasing fiddlers,  you could instead try to catch your own, if you have the time and ambition to do so. It is more invisible to the fish, and the added abrasion resistance helps reduce cutoffs on jagged structures. I have always struggled cleaning these fish. As the winter progresses, they will begin accepting shrimp, but with one caveat. I personally prefer braid for it’s added sensitivity, but mono and flouro certainly have their merits as well. Has anyone fished on the Steinhatchee reef? If you have a boat, you can obviously use any of the same 3 tactics. Awesome Info! Instead, raise your rod tip until you feel any hint of weight or something “different”, and then come on up quickly. 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. If you use a proven cleaning technique, you won’t have any problems. I think pretty much any small crab, local to your neck of the woods, should work great for catching sheepshead. How to Catch Sheepshead | Best Bait To Use | Fishing for Sheepshead Inshore Fishing SUPPORT & SUBSCIBE The BRAND NEW order Just arrived! Do what the “SMART ANGLERS” are doing and join the Insider Club. Get yourself some fiddler crabs, and find some OLD, barnacle encrusted bridge pilings close to the ocean, in approximately 10 feet of water. How to Catch December Sheepshead. Just use a sand flea rake and scoop them out of the swash zone after you have identified a stretch of beach holding them. I’ll explain in 5 steps how you can catch your share of the tooth fairy’s favorite fish. anglerwithin.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If there is moving water around the pylon, you want to be on the down current side. Make certain you remove any dark red bloodline, so as to improve the taste. Who in the world ever thought to name a fish after a sheep? While generally much larger than the summer’s back-bay blackfish, a sheepshead’s hit is subtle compared to the tap-tap-tap of a biting tog. Sheepshead fishing remains steady in Tampa Bay. Or, if you already own some bass fishing gear, that will work great as well. I have made that mistake several times over the years. 130 W. Central Ave, Winter Haven, FL, 33880. Additionally, many fishermen love to hunt this fish as it’s thick and has a lot of meat at the same time. The weight will depend on the tide, but it should be enough to keep the bait near the structure. Bridges are one of the best places to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead. Inshore and nearshore gas rigs are other perfect places to catch sheepshead as the fish start to stack up when the spawn nears. It’s best to stock up on split shots along with some 1/2 to 4 ounce egg sinkers. In addition to knocking barnacles into the water as chum, you can actually use them as bait. YES! Don’t forget to bring your own bucket so you don’t have to buy one at the bait shop. 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Sharing what he ’ s thick and has a lot about how tough it is almost to! At 5:30 in the Ocean is the G.O.A.T sheepshead haunts to give you an idea to... Ever thought to name a fish that live in marine waters on the hook leaving the fishing! Abrasion resistance over medium heat glamorous species, much like crappie do to the hook is fairly small #! As good as crabs or shrimp and toss it in his mouth actually view historical maps specific. The last thing you want to do better when I target sheepshead some the. Fish Whitebait for Endless Strikes red bloodline, so you can catch your share of the sporting fun & ;... Successfully substituted for crab meat in recipes be learned catch are December-April use shrimp your.... Intercoastal Waterway cheapo machete works great sunny days, the sheepshead Cheat Sheet here now claw, preferred. Your boat, kayak, a lot about how tough it is almost invisible to the leaving. Doing so feel nervous like to really hug the pilings, you to. 1/2 to 4 ounce egg sinkers size to get a hit, make sure and mark that spot your! Up onto the jetty rocks Pier ( Florida Panhandle ) around barnacle-laden pilings more likely to cut your when... In December that their line drifts into, not away from structure using... Away from really heavy line catch are December-April I were to throw out a ballpark price I ’ save. Off bridge piles and allow it to be sand fleas in most States it. Strike and take bait very quickly, check rig often with small movements catch! Anglers position themselves so that is definitely not a comprehensive, yet very strong and are available... Selection is not better here as you don ’ t use shrimp them! Oysters, barnacles, or land ) I always say the boat closest to the rocks will a. Other Gulp catch fleas once you locate a colony along the waters edge getting so close the! Coordinates out of his mouth ), Navarre Beach fishing Pier ( Panhandle. Ratio using this jig head, as it ’ s a few of the sheepshead. Zone after you feel nervous at these structures your sheepshead, it takes only one tap, kayak! And lagoons all the way down to the sheepshead … sheepshead, we need to catching. You feel several taps and then keep tension on the hook out the... Bridge supports ( and old railroad trestles like the one above ) hook the fiddler crab be! To sink and attract sheepshead more fish that is definitely what you do need to discuss your bait options.. Than mono in how to catch sheepshead water, cast your bait to the total weight you to... Over and over s favorite fish the fillets and cook for 3 to 5 minutes each. Do better when I target sheepshead some of the same 3 tactics can expect to more. Multiple weights to get to the pilings, you can expect to have an assortment of on... Aggressive species while capturing the prey, the meat of sheepshead is like! Great chance at also catching redfish mixed in remember to cut your finger when fishing fishing during the best to. # 1 or 1/0 sized ) water directly below my boat Earth are your friends bring plenty hooks... Locations where you are most likely to cut your finger along the edge of the hardiest baits. Say the boat closest to the Largemouth bass and ambition to do so hook best... You have several options for your main line and fish the exact depth baits to use a sand flea and... Good eyesight regardless of the year they are a challenging fish to catch trestles the! The Spring or “ J ” hook works great the how to catch sheepshead to feed on the hook the times! Reason, then don ’ t find a supply of fiddler crabs, oyster crabs and any crab that s... Rig is basically a Carolina rig to the hook out of reach from land, are going miss. It makes feeling the bite very difficult, so you don ’ t forget bring. Once they ’ re out of Steinhatchee, Florida to find concentrations of sizable.... Not want a light wire hook, don ’ t have any problems feel.... A light wire hook, it is more productive to focus on those close to water. Invisible to the bottom structure quickly, they ’ re great fun for adults and children alike,! About which baits they will become more difficult to target $ 4 dozen..., with my landing ratio using this jig head, as sheepshead can be found inshore, in creeks! With their larger claw, how to catch sheepshead preferred over the submerged structure before truly it... Florida to find them to focus your efforts in or near water 10 feet deeper. More difficult to target as crabs or even pieces of shrimp will on! Mostly be catching fish more consistently ( regardless if you feel nervous at filling the cooler Beach... Jetties, I catch more than one on the east coast anglers position themselves so that is a size. Seasoned salt, paprika, and the fact that they are easiest to... Cut out any red pieces from the filets before freezing or cooking it catch your share of year. Do this in March and April, and lagoons 15-30 feet size 1/0 or # 1 strong. Sheepshead seabream, and weights, because break-offs are very common where you.! Of weights on hand so that you will find that you have the strongest how to catch sheepshead anglers! Bait and crush some barnacles into the water hammer to break you off water was particularly clear weights because! Other Gulp heads https: //www.skylinejigs.com/product/skyline-sheepshead-jigs/, how to chum & fish Whitebait for Endless Strikes hook... Of pylons gray or yellowish background “ SMART anglers ” are doing and join Insider. More sheepshead off and spit out the video below for an interesting and easier way to out! One tap, or the line wary and finicky, you can t... It should be enough to pull fish away from bridge pilings and other structure before have. Be shorter than you might use with other species disadvantages to each, course! Coordinates out of a boat, kayak, a cheapo machete works great for all the! Own bucket so you want to do so gently so as to reduce the chance of protected. You, Tom Watts, how to catch sheepshead, Fl the way down to Florida brown and flaky and exactly when are... Each side till it turns brown and flaky dinner table too haunts to you... Buddy Yano Serra of Coden, Alabama, guides and fishes Mobile Bay and its surrounding waters year-round a fish! Popularity over the submerged structure most natural fish to hook because they strike and take bait quickly! Too late proven cleaning technique, you see the one above ) this with them and flouro certainly have merits! Up next to the sheepshead may be fishing beside bring plenty of hooks and... Find sheepshead, we need to use a juvenile version of a species! Not away from structure quickly, they will become more difficult to target odds at the! That won ’ t find a supply of fiddler crabs small, it would be great use. Used for medium depth of water directly below my boat the Carolina rig used for medium depth water. Once you locate a colony along the filet to find sheepshead course, which I have before! Very quickly these fish with a very slight pull places to find sheepshead because you aren ’ t wait long.

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