Sheepshead are a Florida Shore Fishing winter staple. They are a great tasting fish that puts on a decent battle. Here is a simple guide to catching this great fish!
Sheepshead ranging in size from bellow 12” to around 24”, the do get bigger than 24” but it is rare to catch them inshore. While they are not giants in size, they do require somewhat stout tackle because of where they live.
Sheepshead are most often found around pylons and oyster bars. This type of cover can wreak havoc on line, so a 20-40lb fluorocarbon leader is recommended. A VERY sharp live bait or sickle hook from #2-2/0 works well.
Using a Carolina rig put only the amount of weight needed to allow a strait down drop above a barrel swivel. Attach a 12” leader to that swivel and the hook at the bottom.
Sheepshead live almost exclusively on invertebrates. One of the reasons they are a favorite on the table is because of this invertebrate diet, remember they are what they eat! Barnacles, shrimp and crabs are their favorite foods.
The most popular bait for Sheepshead is Fiddler Crabs. These crabs are not only easy to find in bait stores around Florida this time of year but they are also easy to catch if you know where to look. Any other type of small crab (oyster crabs, baby blue crabs) work just as well. Chunks of fresh dead shrimp also work well, but will often be stolen.
Sheepshead are most often found foraging the pylons of structure. The best presentation is to drop the bait strait down just up current of the pylon. Drop the bait to the bottom and then reel up about 15-20”. When the Sheepshead bites a tap-tap will be felt and then the fish will take the bait away from the pylon. As soon as the line starts to move, set the hook.
Tips & Tricks
- Make sure to use ULTRA sharp hooks.
- Use a strong upward motion to set the hook
- Do not set the hook when the tap-tap is felt, wait for the line to move.
- Sheepshead are great bait thiefs, don’t be discouraged by missed fish
- Bring plenty of bait