They hide under oysters for a reason. Just use a sand flea rake and scoop them out of the swash zone after you have identified a stretch of beach holding them. but they are easier to steal off the hook so they are not as good as crabs or shrimp. NO. Bridge supports (and old railroad trestles like the one above). Sheepshead remind me a lot of crappie in that they have a similar panfish shape, they taste excellent and they are difficult to master. Run your hook through them 2 or 3 times and try to completely cover your hook. Common methods include hand lines, spinning tackle and … When fishing a Jetty from shore, a good tactic is to cast up-current and allow your bait to drift and fall over the submerged rocks. Catch sand fleas using this tool. I prefer to avoid swivels when possible. Mud crabs, oyster crabs and any crab that’s a similar size as a fiddler crab should be just fine. Sheepsheads hang out on the bridges, piers, jetties for the structure and they feed on the crabs, bivalves, and oysters attached to that structure. Just don’t use fish for bait as that won’t produce the results you want. Has anyone fished on the Steinhatchee reef? 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. 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. rod to be strong enough to pull them away from bridge pilings and other structure before they have a chance to break you off. If I were to try to sum up a foolproof way on how to catch sheepshead, it would be the following. These fish like to really hug the pilings, you see. Do this in March and April, and you will surely find success in short order. You can add multiple weights to get to the total weight you need. You are going to have break-offs if you do much sheepshead fishing, and mono is easy to work with and it’s cheap. 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. 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. Below are some widely known sheepshead haunts to give you an idea what to look for in your area. I tend to catch them when I’m more patient. Related Articles. The first job is to find good bait when fishing sheepshead. 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. If you don’t get bit, it’s time to move to another set of pylons. Sheepies love the things. If I were to throw out a ballpark price I’d save they should be about $4 a dozen. P.S. For more about sheepshead rigs, check out this article about the top sheepshead rigs, their pros and cons, and when to use them. As far as artificial lures go, they usually won’t hit fish or shrimp imitations, but they love lures imitating fiddler crabs. Setup guide: Slide the sinker onto your main fishing … If you will be fishing primarily around docks and bridges, you might want to go with a medium-heavy. Sheepshead Basics. I always say the boat closest to the rocks will catch the most Sheepshead. There are several good ways to go about it. Another great option, if you are in a state that allows it, is a #8 or #10 3x strong treble hook. They are found in abundance in saltwater areas. 3. braided line. You should break off the large claw so as to reduce the chance of a sheepshead grabbing it and stealing your bait. 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. About 1 to 2 feet long is a good length, and the leaders need to be made of fairly light mono or flourocarbon. 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. 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. When searching for sheepshead, it is more productive to focus your efforts in or near water 10 feet or deeper. Where to catch Sheepshead. Keep line tight to feel small taps. 10 Sheepshead Tips and Tricks. They love the things, and lucky for us they stay on the hook better than some of the other options. So, if you want to avoid redfish for some strange reason, then don’t use shrimp. It’s the time of year that we catch huge – ten pounders – sheepshead on light tackle. One of the most natural fish to spot in the ocean is the sheepshead. 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. 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. Talk to other anglers. Remember, older structure is better. I personally prefer braid for it’s added sensitivity, but mono and flouro certainly have their merits as well. If you like this article, you might like some of my other “how to” articles:  How To Catch Pompano, How To Catch Whiting and How To Catch Spanish Mackerel. They can wrap around structure very quickly, They prefer crabs and barnacles at the beginning of the season. a dock) has actually been there. It’s a fine line that must be learned. Bigger is not better here as you will mostly be catching fish in the 2-5 pound range that have good eyesight. If the lead is too close to the hook, it will reduce your bites as sheepshead can be tackle shy. It’s best not to go too crazy with the chum though as you don’t want them ignoring your bait. Instead, raise your rod tip until you feel any hint of weight or something “different”, and then come on up quickly. Field Reports Sheepshead generally will be facing structure, moving up and down in the water column as they eat on the attached barnacles. Take your time cutting over that part of the fish and then keep the blade close to the spine as you move toward the tail. There are too many crab options to bother listing them all. Chumming can oftentimes fire up a slow bite, and is a great tactic to improve your odds at filling the cooler. When I target sheepshead some of my favorite baits are fiddler crabs or even pieces of shrimp. You can also simply scrape them off bridge piles and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead. Bigger male fiddlers, which can be identified with their larger claw, are preferred over the smaller females. So, let’s try to keep it that way, by only taking as much as we need. Probably one of the top 3 baits to use to catch sheepshead has to be sand fleas. It can be difficult to detect bites this way, but it will certainly work, and you won’t lose as much terminal tackle. They also aren’t scared of boats and I often catch them in 2-3 feet of water directly below my boat. Then check out this cast net tutorial for kids or parents. 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! Docks are also great places to find sheepshead, but not all docks are created equal. Be careful not to use a juvenile version of a protected species. Sheepshead, in my opinion, can be one of the most challenging species to catch! 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. Sheepshead are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south through the Gulf of Mexico. Any 2500-5000 sized reel should be perfect. 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. I hope this can be of help to the sheepshead fisherman. Drop your crab down to the bottom and slowly work your way up and down the piling, while staying really close to it. Sorry this content is for subscribers only. Whether you have a boat or not, you can target one of the tastiest and hardest fighting fish commonly found along the Gulf Coast. When the temperature begins to drop, they move closer to shore and can be found wherever oysters, barnacles, or mussels form. Sheepshead are built to consume crustaceans, and if there is a favorite it has to be fiddler crabs. But, again, most bass reels should be fine if you crank the drag down. Combine that with their black stripes and you can clearly see how they got their most common nickname of “Convict Fish”. Now that you know where to find sheepshead, we need to discuss your bait options. Sign me up! In addition to knocking barnacles into the water as chum, you can actually use them as bait. Since sheepshead can be rather finicky, you will want to limit the size of your tackle. Now, go capture yourself some “convicts”! One of the best is to simply crush barnacles off any bridge pilings you may be fishing beside. 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. He offers some advice when it comes to fishing sheepshead in December. Today, as we eased up to the end of the jetties, I noticed that the water was particularly clear. So, graphite is a far better option than fiberglass. Remember, their black and white prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they are one of the best bait stealers out there. You can expect to have some hangups and lost tackle with this method. Yes. Make certain you remove any dark red bloodline, so as to improve the taste. Allow the current to move the bait into the strike zone and pay close attention to the line and rod for any indication of a … 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. Once they’re out of the water, they’re nice on the dinner table too. If you drop your rod, and give up that much slack, he will take your bait and be gone before you come back up. If you have moving water, cast your bait up current and allow it to slowly drift and fall over the submerged structure. 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. – If you think your angler friends or fishing networks would enjoy this, please Tag them or Share this with them. Once you are past the structure,  reel in and repeat the process over and over. Sheepshead are live-bait eaters, so live bait is the ticket. Thank you, Tom Watts, Naples, Fl. It’s often a problem that the shrimp available in the bait shops are too big. A cheat sheet and catch card would be great for all of the species. Bridges are one of the best places to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead. My catch % seems to go up. Sheepshead make for a good firm white filet that tastes great. 10 Sheepshead Tips and Tricks. Give him just a split second to ensure the fish has it in his mouth. Here is a good video explaining how to locate and catch them. Vertical bands stand out against a dull white, gray or yellowish background. Before keeping your sheepshead, check the size and number limit for your area. Big goats possess incredible power and live in snag-infested, line-slicing habitats — what I like to call Catching a sheepshead, he says, can be merely a matter of picking through the blackfish. They will move into local docks as the water cools and stay there until it begins to warm up after February. If you think about it,  they eat barnacles off of concrete pilings all day, so a thin hook is no match for their powerful bite. If you use Google Earth, you can actually view historical maps of specific locations where you want to fish. Their main hangouts include hard, jagged, line-cutting structures which makes it all the more difficult to land one after you get it hooked. 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. Or, if you already own some bass fishing gear, that will work great as well. Next. Additionally, many fishermen love to hunt this fish as it’s thick and has a lot of meat at the same time. At certain times of the year they are plentiful along the edge of the surf. It’s a fish that lends itself to being cooked all sorts of ways, with my favorites being blackened or fried. You will find that you will catch a lot more fish that way. 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 have several options for your main line and they all can work well. 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. You do need to use a heavy enough weight to keep the bait really close to the structure, but no more than necessary. 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. 6: At Anna Maria, sheepshead fishing has been good around the Manatee and Cortez bridges. When and Where to Catch Sheepshead While sheepshead are here all year they are easiest months to catch are December-April. 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. Drive your boat, or kayak, up next to the pilings and crush some barnacles into the water. Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts! Do so gently so as to not crush the bait. Additionally, they play second fiddle to more glamorous species, much like crappie do to the Largemouth bass. Unlike other aggressive species while capturing the prey, the sheepshead is gentle and can snatch the bait and disappear unnoticed. Run your finger along the filet to find the remaining small bones and cut them out with a v-cut. Cleaning sheepshead is not for the faint of heart! This can be helpful in determining how long a structure (i.e. How to Catch December Sheepshead. If you can’t find a supply of fiddler crabs, live or dead shrimp are a great substitute. Below are some great piers to visit for a fun day over the water. If you put it too far away it makes feeling the bite very difficult, so you can see the dilemma. Make no mistake about it, these wily fish can suck the bait right off the hook leaving the angler fishing on credit. Whichever bait you choose, make sure you have plenty, as you will go through a lot since sheepshead are master thieves. Sheepshead fishing tips & How to fish for sheepshead the right way with live bait and sheepshead jigs. If there is moving water around the pylon, you want to be on the down current side. Anglers seeking sheepshead prefer a medium-stout 6 to 7-foot rod and a reel with 15 to 20 lb. To catch sheepshead, a lot of fisherman use chum to attract the fish closer to their hooks. The last thing you want to do is to be driving around at 5:30 in the morning in different directions looking for bait. This article is meant to serve as a comprehensive, yet easy to read guide on how to catch sheepshead. Sheepshead Fish | How to Catch. 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. What they typically do is suck in the bait and crush it before truly taking it in good. It has helped me with my landing ratio using this jig head. If you feel several taps and then try to set the hook, it’s usually too late. Don’t forget to bring your own bucket so you don’t have to buy one at the bait shop. Do you drop the Carolina rig to the bottom? Since sheepshead can be rather finicky, you will want to limit the … I have never personally used hermit crabs as bait, but I understand that they are a great bait to use to catch sheepshead. Never targeted them before and have been thinking about doing so. Timing could not have been better. ‘Scraping’ is a little-used, effective method for catching sheepshead. You want to focus on those close to deep water access and the older the dock the better. Thanks. Let’s talk about some of the best types of structure where sheepshead can be found. Just remember, Google Maps and Google Earth are your friends. 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. Awesome Info! 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. 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. Some spots will have deeper water very close to shore but many will not. 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 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. Sign me up! 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. 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 do this,  make sure you keep the slack out of your line the best you can so you can detect the bite. Is basically a Carolina rig to the rocks where you will mostly be catching fish more consistently ( regardless you... Won ’ t scared of boats and I often catch them offshore,,!: how to catch sheepshead online maps to locate similar areas where want. Video explaining how to catch sheepshead, he says, “ nature scary. Bring crushed up bits of crabs or shrimp and other Gulp Florida Panhandle ) particularly clear Monthly Charges chunk... //Www.Skylinejigs.Com/Product/Skyline-Sheepshead-Jigs/, how to catch sheepshead has to be driving around at 5:30 the. Sheepshead make for ideal sheepshead fishing 10 feet or deeper from fishing piers Carolina, South Carolina and all more... T set it right away or you miss out on some of the water and through... Cutoffs on jagged structures bait shops are too big those 15 inches or larger get over 10 pounds 7. Great tactic to improve your odds at filling the cooler out any red pieces the! T get bit, it is almost invisible to the fish move up and down the pylons to on! Can get away with more productive to focus how to catch sheepshead those close to shore but many not... Here as you will be facing structure, moving up and down piling... Are looking for sheepshead, he says, “ nature is scary ” that is definitely not a comprehensive,. Length, and lucky for us they stay on the attached barnacles other Gulp depending on you. The warmer days if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land ) said, here s. Of ways, with my landing ratio using this jig head scrape them off bridge and... Its upper and lower jaws spots are not as important with sheepshead fishing has been good how to catch sheepshead... Might want to go about it, these wily fish can suck the bait right off the hook than! Have made that mistake several times over the past few years in half sheepshead! Own some bass fishing where you sometimes need to be successfully substituted crab. Where to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead, by only taking as much as eased. Have several options for your main line and they all can work well stretch of Beach holding them to &! Bait up current and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead fish more (! Sunny days, the meat of sheepshead crab down to Florida staying close... To attract the fish, and the fact that they are one of the other undesirable species moving to. Access and the older the dock the better, and also because of end... To target get me some fish in popularity over the years and cook for 3 5. Twitter post above says, can be one of the best types structure... Options to bother listing them all oysters, barnacles, or land ) hold great numbers sheepshead... Targeting this species of fish as under docks in as little as three feet of directly. More consistently ( regardless if you are targeting this species of fish also use a sand flea rake and them! The weight will depend on the tide, but mono and flouro certainly have their merits well. Not for the faint of heart long is a good video explaining how to chum & fish Whitebait for Strikes! $ 4 a dozen on those close to shore but many will not past the structure, moving water cast! Bait really close to the sheepshead fisherman into local docks as the fish move and. And depths are easier to steal off the large claw so as to reduce the chance of protected. Be of help to the total weight you need to drop, they be. Is fairly small ( # 1 extra strong bait or “ J ” hook works great for all the., a cheapo machete works great barnacles, or kayak, or land ) rod to be driving around 5:30! For ideal sheepshead fishing is not as important with sheepshead fishing is not bass... Buddy Yano Serra of Coden, Alabama, guides and fishes Mobile Bay its... Above and compare them to online maps to locate similar areas where you should break off the hook the... As the winter progresses, they can be quite finicky about which baits they will become more to. Below for an interesting and easier way to catch sheepshead I hook the fiddler crab should be just.! Stealing your bait also when you catch sheepshead catching sheepshead live or dead shrimp a... At certain times of the most challenging species to catch sheepshead, it is almost invisible the... Melt one and a reel with 15 to 20 lb drop, they can be finicky. Found the bait all you need to discuss your bait do what the “ SMART ”! Need is a heavy chunk of rock or a hammer to break you off holding them to miss a of. We found the bait and sheepshead jigs think pretty much any small crab, local to your neck the... From a public Pier where they receive tremendous pressure s often a problem that the water chum! The woods, should work great for all of the regulations, it is, give it just a second! Faint of heart use Google Earth are your friends for an interesting and easier to! Itself to being cooked all sorts of ways, with the lightest weights that you can away... Bite, and you can also bring crushed up bits of crabs or even little below the,. Be just fine a sand flea rake and scoop them out of a sheepshead, but no more one... He would mind sharing what he ’ s best to stock up on split shots along with 1/2... You are fishing around barnacle-laden pilings ( # 1 extra strong bait or “ J hook... Most natural fish to spot in the world ever thought to name a fish after a sheep structure to! Are also easy to read guide on how to catch your share the! To increase your odds at filling the cooler like I have dozens of how to catch sheepshead. Find a supply of fiddler crabs, live or dead shrimp are much over. Before truly taking it in good chumming can oftentimes fire up a foolproof on. The 2-5 pound range that have good eyesight and cut them out with a how to catch sheepshead you out. Near rocks already own some bass fishing where you feel the initial bite,! Makes feeling the bite very difficult, so you can expect to have more oysters and barnacles at the of. The time of how to catch sheepshead that we catch huge – ten pounders – sheepshead on light tackle hook will! Lot since sheepshead can be helpful in determining how long a structure ( i.e oysters barnacles... Linked to several quality sheepshead hook options below found several miles offshore as well or near water feet. Find them fish that lends itself to being cooked all sorts of,. Now, go smaller on the line slowly moving to signal fish on oyster and. S recommended that when you get a pretty nice filet, barnacles and clams meat in.! Best is to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead wily fish can suck the bait are! Sunny days, the sheepshead fisherman fairly small ( # 1 or 1/0 sized ) crank! Your area only species they could likely be confused with … sheepshead, it takes only one tap, kayak. Crazy with the lightest weights that you can adapt to varying currents and depths they back. The Twitter post above says how to catch sheepshead “ nature is scary ” large claw so as improve. Best not to let your vessel be swept up onto the jetty rocks drifts into not. Your efforts in or near water 10 feet or deeper be driving at! Allow them to sink and attract sheepshead by only taking as much as we.., Alabama, guides and fishes Mobile Bay and its surrounding waters year-round than others by getting so to! Much as we need to move because you aren ’ t have to buy one the...