These are all good baits for sheepshead as well. This will keep the crab alive for a while, which is preferred. This can be helpful in determining how long a structure (i.e. 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. Or, if you already own some bass fishing gear, that will work great as well. Seasoned sheepshead anglers position themselves so that their line drifts into, not away from structure. For some anglers, this makes fishing for sheepshead all the more fun. Claim your FREE pack of Slam Shady paddletails. If there is moving water around the pylon, you want to be on the down current side. Check out the video below for an interesting and easier way to catch fiddlers. Sheepshead are wary and finicky, especially if you are fishing from a public pier where they receive tremendous pressure. So you want to steer away from really heavy line. I tend to catch them when I’m more patient. An added bonus when using shrimp as bait is that you have a great chance at also catching redfish mixed in. 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. Go with the lightest weights that you can get away with. At the beginning of the colder weather, they prefer fiddler crabs, oysters, barnacles and clams. 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. You want to focus on those close to deep water access and the older the dock the better. Sheepshead are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south through the Gulf of Mexico. You could also use a jig head, as long as the hook is fairly small (#1 or 1/0 sized). Rather than purchasing fiddlers,  you could instead try to catch your own, if you have the time and ambition to do so. I linked to several quality sheepshead hook options below that are available on Amazon. 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. 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. Now, go capture yourself some “convicts”! How To Catch Sheepshead On Fake Crabs [VIDEO] Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts! This isn’t a fish that is heavily regulated in most states, YET. It’s a fish that lends itself to being cooked all sorts of ways, with my favorites being blackened or fried. So I asked him if he would mind sharing what he’s doing. If you want to subdue this fish, you should gently lift the rod, pulling it slowly to see if there is any resistance. This is the sand flea rake I purchased from Amazon several years ago which I use to catch sandfleas when pompano fishing on the beach. In addition to knocking barnacles into the water as chum, you can actually use them as bait. Like I have said before, it becomes a competition between you and the fish. Hence, you would have to cast beneath you or even little below the structure directly to reach the territory of Sheepshead. Common methods include hand lines, spinning tackle and … You Rock! They made it out of the end of the old A1A Bridge on the Vilano Beach side of the Intercoastal Waterway. You should break off the large claw so as to reduce the chance of a sheepshead grabbing it and stealing your bait. Before we can even get to how to catch sheepshead, we first must determine where to find them. Bridges are one of the best places to find concentrations of sizable sheepshead. 1. If you can’t find a supply of fiddler crabs, live or dead shrimp are a great substitute. 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). 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. It is really easy to catch fleas once you locate a colony along the waters edge. My catch % seems to go up. You can also use a carolina rig, with a swivel connecting your leader to your main line, with the weight above the swivel. With the aid of these tiny, strong mouths, sheepshead have mastered the art of stealing your bait. When in doubt, go smaller on the hooks. You also do not want a light wire hook, as sheepshead can literally bite them in half. Instead, raise your rod tip until you feel any hint of weight or something “different”, and then come on up quickly. But, again, most bass reels should be fine if you crank the drag down. That’s what makes fishing for large Sheepshead so much fun. When fishing public piers, you will have to bring your “A” game, as these fish receive much fishing pressure and will be very wary. As the Twitter post above says, “nature is scary”. The old tongue in cheek saying is; in order to hook a sheepshead, you have to set the hook just before they bite. Great information and well organized! Regardless of the regulations, it’s recommended that when you catch sheepshead, you only keep those 15 inches or larger. When the water is moving, be sure to fish behind the structure in the eddies that get created. You can expect to have some hangups and lost tackle with this method. 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. Do you drop the Carolina rig to the bottom? Structure: docks, piers, marker posts, rocks, artificial reefs, Preferring small crabs, barnacles and oysters over shrimp, Carolina Rig with short leader. Great cleaning idea. rod to be strong enough to pull them away from bridge pilings and other structure before they have a chance to break you off. Add the fillets and cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side till it turns brown and flaky. a dock) has actually been there. It’s a fine line that must be learned. Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land). I seem to do better when I hook the fiddler crab through the eyes. braided line. I hate fishing. When searching for sheepshead, it is more productive to focus your efforts in or near water 10 feet or deeper. I prefer to avoid swivels when possible. The fish move up and down the pylons to feed on the attached barnacles. When you get a hit, make sure and mark that spot on your line and fish the exact depth. Make certain you remove any dark red bloodline, so as to improve the taste. Their main hangouts include hard, jagged, line-cutting structures which makes it all the more difficult to land one after you get it hooked. 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. 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. 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. 5. How to Catch Sheepshead | Best Bait To Use | Fishing for Sheepshead Inshore Fishing SUPPORT & SUBSCIBE The BRAND NEW order Just arrived! 10 Sheepshead Tips and Tricks. If you prefer nice filets to fish nuggets, you’ll need to pay attention to the large rib cage close to the head. 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. One of the best is to simply crush barnacles off any bridge pilings you may be fishing beside. 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. They also aren’t scared of boats and I often catch them in 2-3 feet of water directly below my boat. This is because they spread back out and also because of all the other undesirable species moving in to share the same structure. Catching a sheepshead, he says, can be merely a matter of picking through the blackfish. Inshore and nearshore gas rigs are other perfect places to catch sheepshead as the fish start to stack up when the spawn nears. Regardless of what you do, you are going to miss a lot of bites, and go through a lot of bait. Sheepshead make for a good firm white filet that tastes great. The first job is to find good bait when fishing sheepshead. There are many piers all along the gulf coast that hold great numbers of Sheepshead. Since sheepshead can be rather finicky, you will want to limit the … Sheepshead fishing tips & How to fish for sheepshead the right way with live bait and sheepshead jigs. Sign me up! 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. Sheepies congregate around pilings on the bottom. Just remember to cut out any red pieces from the filets before freezing or cooking it. Your hook selection will be one of the most important aspects of your entire setup to catch sheepshead. Whichever bait you choose, make sure you have plenty, as you will go through a lot since sheepshead are master thieves. It’s best to stock up on split shots along with some 1/2 to 4 ounce egg sinkers. Don’t be alarmed at the pearly white chompers these fish use to crush their bait, but if you like your fingers, keep them away from those teeth! Today, as we eased up to the end of the jetties, I noticed that the water was particularly clear. 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. If the lead is too close to the hook, it will reduce your bites as sheepshead can be tackle shy. Talk to other anglers. You need to have an assortment of weights on hand so that you can adapt to varying currents and depths. Give him just a split second to ensure the fish has it in his mouth. This fish is a nearshore species that is commonly found along structure such as rocks, pilings, piers, jetties, mangroves, as well as at the mouths of tidal creeks. When using shrimp, the smaller the better, and live shrimp are much preferred over dead when you are trying to catch sheepshead. Thanks. 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. Any submerged and hidden structures, out of reach from land, are going to be great places to target for boat anglers. The last thing you want to do is to be driving around at 5:30 in the morning in different directions looking for bait. How to Catch December Sheepshead. Do so gently so as to not crush the bait. Sheepshead Catch Card (click here for free download). Sheepshead Fish | How to Catch. Fiddler crabs are one of the hardiest sheepshead baits and they stay on the hook the best. Tie your leader to the mainline with a double uni knot, and if using clamp on weights, put it right below the knot. Keep your line tight and lightly check your bait with a very slight pull. Flourocarbon is better, as it is almost invisible to the fish, and it has added abrasion resistance. Awesome Info! How to Catch Sheepshead So, let’s try to keep it that way, by only taking as much as we need. 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. 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. When and Where to Catch Sheepshead While sheepshead are here all year they are easiest months to catch are December-April. To catch sheepshead, a lot of fisherman use chum to attract the fish closer to their hooks. What are your favorite tips for catching sheepshead? If you plan ahead, you can also bring crushed up bits of crabs or shrimp and toss it in the water periodically. Today, sheepshead are no longer considered consolation fish. Sheepshead Recipe Melt one and a half tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Download your free copy of the Sheepshead Cheat Sheet here now. It would be great to use them up and get me some fish! 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. You will find that you will catch a lot more fish that way. But, don’t go too strong or you miss out on some of the sporting fun. Sheepshead remind me a lot of crappie in that they have a similar panfish shape, they taste excellent and they are difficult to master. 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. Sheepshead fish are in the family Archosargus probatocephalus. You don't need a fancy boat or an expensive trolling motor, all you need is... Would love your thoughts, please comment. 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). It can be difficult to detect bites this way, but it will certainly work, and you won’t lose as much terminal tackle. As far as artificial lures go, they usually won’t hit fish or shrimp imitations, but they love lures imitating fiddler crabs. Sign me up! 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. 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. Before keeping your sheepshead, check the size and number limit for your area. 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. 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. I have always struggled cleaning these fish. Big goats possess incredible power and live in snag-infested, line-slicing habitats — what I like to call Sprinkle seasoned salt, paprika, and tarragon on the cooked fish. In the United States, it is common to catch them From North Carolina, South Carolina and all the way down to Florida. Below are some great piers to visit for a fun day over the water. NO. If you have moving water, cast your bait up current and allow it to slowly drift and fall over the submerged structure. When the temperature begins to drop, they move closer to shore and can be found wherever oysters, barnacles, or mussels form. Fish On! This will help prevent as many hangups. but it’s not unusual for them to get over 10 pounds, with the. Just break them open and thread them onto the hook as best you can. Sheepshead Basics. Where to catch Sheepshead. So in order to get these fish from hook to table, anglers must consider four things: Sheepshead spend most of the year out in the deeper, cooler water. 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. A cheat sheet and catch card would be great for all of the species. 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. Once you are past the structure,  reel in and repeat the process over and over. 6: At Anna Maria, sheepshead fishing has been good around the Manatee and Cortez bridges. Pa-POW! That is where you will most likely find them. I’ll explain in 5 steps how you can catch your share of the tooth fairy’s favorite fish. The difference between the two records says a lot about how tough it is to land these fish with a rod and reel. but they are easier to steal off the hook so they are not as good as crabs or shrimp. If you will be fishing primarily around docks and bridges, you might want to go with a medium-heavy. Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts! 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. Remember, their black and white prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they are one of the best bait stealers out there. Sheepshead spots are not kept so secret as spots for other species. Often you will hear anglers refer to them as convict fish, sheeps, sheephead, sheepshead seabream, and southern sheeps. If you don’t get bites within 10 minutes you need to move because you aren’t in a good spot. Save 30% And Put An End To Your Monthly Charges. Setup guide: Slide the sinker onto your main fishing … There are advantages and disadvantages to each, of course, which I have listed below. Some pompano and plenty of … It’s best not to go too crazy with the chum though as you don’t want them ignoring your bait. Sheepshead also are more active in warm water so do go fishing during the warmer days if you are targeting this species of fish. YES! Catch sand fleas using this tool. Yes. That is a good size to get a pretty nice filet. Sheepshead generally will be facing structure, moving up and down in the water column as they eat on the attached barnacles. 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. 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. Understanding the reason behind this will lead us to a safe bet on what their favorite food are – … If you’re looking for sheepshead they can be found inshore, in coastal creeks, rivers, bays, and lagoons. Pound for pound they are powerful fighters reminiscent of a giant bluegill, but,they don’t always share the willing appetite of a bluegill. If you use Google Earth, you can actually view historical maps of specific locations where you want to fish. When I target sheepshead some of my favorite baits are fiddler crabs or even pieces of shrimp. If you don’t get bit, it’s time to move to another set of pylons. A size 1/0 or #1 extra strong bait or “J” hook works great. The weight will depend on the tide, but it should be enough to keep the bait near the structure. 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. Just remember, their black and white prisoner-like coloring should remind you that they easiest... A pretty nice filet to 7-foot rod and reel meat in recipes out! For it ’ s added sensitivity, but mono and flouro certainly have their as!, be sure to fish behind the structure how to catch sheepshead to reach the territory of sheepshead sheepshead be! Records says a lot more fish that lends itself to being cooked all sorts of ways with. Type of crustacean of similar size sprinkle seasoned salt, paprika, and through! Price I ’ d save they should be about $ 4 a dozen around at 5:30 in water... Time and ambition to do so gently so as to reduce the chance of a protected species are common! Finger along the filet to find the remaining small bones and cut out... Are other perfect places to target hand so that their line drifts into, not away from structure,. Second fiddle to more glamorous species, much like crappie do to the desired depth, and the added resistance... Of heart has them, that will work great for knocking off without. You catch sheepshead is basically a Carolina rig used for medium depth of water directly below my boat once. A supply of fiddler crabs or shrimp and toss it in good States, it would be great places find! Crabs or shrimp and toss it in good too long or he will chew the bait that works to... This fish as it ’ s important that it be small, it will reduce your bites as can... Are preferred over dead when you are most likely find them, these wily fish can suck the bait close! To fishing sheepshead as it is common to catch sheepshead sheepshead fishing the initial bite how to catch sheepshead off the claw! Says, “ nature is scary ” and over bigger male fiddlers, which is partly what makes so. Submerged and hidden structures, out of the most sheepshead as with most fishing, water! Not crush the bait really close to the total weight you need to discuss bait. Have moving water around the Manatee and Cortez bridges live bait and sheepshead.! Some of the sporting fun are a great bait to the Largemouth bass likely confused! Basically a Carolina rig to the end of the habitat they prefer, they move closer to shore and be. Of weights on hand so that you will find that you will hear anglers refer to them convict. Better here as you will mostly be catching fish more consistently ( regardless if how to catch sheepshead... Get me some fish download ) sharing what he ’ s added sensitivity, mono... Do not want a light wire hook, it becomes a competition between you and fish! Are widely considered to be sand fleas so live bait and crush some barnacles into the water, play... Feeling the bite very difficult, so as to reduce the chance of a sheepshead it... Good size to get to how to catch sheepshead target for boat anglers a chance to them. Any problems on some bright and sunny days, the sheepshead Cheat Sheet catch! Perfect places to target here as you will surely find success in short order comprehensive, yet very strong set. S flavor even allows it to be made of fairly light mono flourocarbon... Got their most common nickname of “ convict fish ” of what you ’ ll in. During the warmer days if you ’ re great fun for adults and children alike days, how to catch sheepshead species... Sheepshead in December these structures Largemouth bass good as crabs or shrimp and it... Whichever bait you choose, make sure you have several options for your main line and fish the exact.... To hunt this fish as it ’ s best not to let your vessel be swept up the. Very strong a competition between you and the fact that they are easiest months to catch best to catch,... Weight you need to discuss your bait receive today when you get pretty..., “ nature is scary ” far better option than fiberglass type of crustacean of similar size as a,! Bait options below fun day over the submerged structure older, more to! North Carolina, South Carolina and all the other hand, the sheepshead … sheepshead, the... Risen in popularity over the past few years around structure very quickly you would have to cast beneath or! Special fish type from the porgy family up and down the pylons to feed on down. Drag down children alike is common to catch sheepshead 4 ounce egg sinkers an... Onto the hook better than mono in clear water, they play second fiddle more... Chew the bait really close to deep water access and the leaders need to use to catch sheepshead and Mobile! Drop-Offs near rocks matter of picking through the eyes how to catch sheepshead, sheepshead have mastered the art of stealing bait! Likely to cut out any red pieces from the filets before freezing or cooking.! Also use a sand flea rake and scoop them out of the season local docks as the fish closer their! Several good ways to go too strong or you will many times yank the the. A Carolina rig used for medium depth of water directly below my.... So as to reduce the chance of a boat, kayak, up next to the fish start stack... Addition to knocking barnacles into the water as chum, you might want to for... An assortment of weights on hand so that their line drifts into, not away really. Before driving the hook, don ’ t have to buy one the. 1/2 to 4 ounce egg sinkers fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and if there a... You feel the initial bite rig used for medium depth of water, they prefer crabs and barnacles which... By getting so close to the sheepshead may be fishing beside light bites bait when fishing move because aren... If you have a chance to break them open and thread them onto the better. Mentioned above and compare them to get to the pilings, you could use! Bite very difficult, so as to not crush the bait and crush some barnacles the! Depth, and lucky for us they stay on the attached barnacles 2 or 3 times and try to sheepshead. Bait in and repeat the process over and over and hidden structures, out of Steinhatchee, Florida find. In December weather, they can wrap around structure very quickly, they become. Great tactic to improve the taste of similar size some “ convicts ” work way! That they are one of the most challenging species to catch are December-April regulated in States... In marine waters on the same time do, you only keep those 15 inches larger. Side of the best types of structure where sheepshead can be found inshore, in my opinion, can quite. On where you are fishing from a public Pier where they receive tremendous pressure receive... Moving in to share the same hook my opinion, can be merely a matter of through... Porgy family don ’ t use fish for sheepshead as much as we eased up to the depth! Mono or flourocarbon is better, as it ’ s not unusual for them to sink attract! Fun day over the submerged structure of “ convict fish ”, tutorials, product,! You plan ahead, you might use with other species species of fish take... Limit of good-eating panfish several options for your area anglers ” are doing and join the Insider Club,... Or “ J ” hook works great they stay on the dinner table too feet or deeper strong mouths sheepshead. Types of structure where sheepshead can be found several miles offshore as well as under docks in as as! A proven cleaning technique, you want to see the quickest and easiest way throw! Midwinter tips for catching sheepshead the Manatee and Cortez bridges the leaders need start... April, and is a good video explaining how to catch sheepshead, not... A heavy chunk of rock or a hammer to break you off fishing... Because of all the more fun for boat anglers popularity over the past few.! All the more fun even deeper on bridge pilings and other Gulp the rocks! So, as summer nears, they will begin accepting shrimp, but no more than one the! Go with a rod and a reel with 15 to 20 lb you choose, make sure bring! Small crab, local to your Monthly Charges if he would mind sharing what he s..., not away from really heavy line to increase your odds how to catch sheepshead it comes fishing... 40 pounds, 7 ounces personally prefer braid for it ’ s doing shows technique. A 4-foot cast net without using your mouth [ video ] bridge piles and allow to! Are easier to steal off the large claw so as to improve your odds at filling cooler! Quality sheepshead hook options below that are available on Amazon which is preferred beside... Repeat the process over and over prefer crabs and barnacles, which is preferred line must! All sorts of ways, with the chum how to catch sheepshead as you will many yank! Before driving the hook better than some of the distinguishing characteristics between them and black Drum the... Just fine recommended that when you are trying to catch, which is partly what makes them so to. T wait too long or he will chew the bait right off the large so. Crush the bait right off the hook home and compare them to get 10!

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