Sheepshead Moving Inshore for The Fall

sheepsheadA fish migration that can lead to a busy day fishing and a full cooler of tasty fish, is that still possible with all the restrictions found around Florida? It most certainly is, and fall is the time to take advantage of the Sheepsheads that are moving through Florida’s inshore waters.

The fall Sheepshead run starts in late September / early November and lasts until the spring offshore breeding seasons. While the world record Sheepshead is 21 pounds, 4 ounces, the average inshore is around 2-3 pounds. The larger fish, of around 6-10 pounds can be found from time to time around bridges and piers.

Sheepshead feed almost exclusively on crustaceans (part of the reason they are so highly prized as table fare), and this diet dictates where to fish for them. Areas that attract small small crabs, oysters and barnacles will frequently attract these toothy fish as well. They are quite easy to spot in clear water, and in darker or stained water can easily be chummed to an area using oysters and scraped barnacles.

Sheepshead have relativity small teeth for their size, as such smaller hooks must be used. A hook size of #1 seems to work best. It is small enough to fit in most Sleepyhead’s mouths and strong enough to not get bitten in half by their strong jaws. Use only the amount of weight needed to get the bait into the strike zone, as Sheepsheads can be quite finicky when terminal tackle is visible.

For bait, nothing beats a live fiddler crab. Hooked bellow their legs up through their shell, no self respecting Sheepshead can turn down this offering. A close second is freshly cut shrimp. A chunk the size of an adult males thumb tip is perfect size and will lead to many strikes.


Because of their bony mouths and ability to pick bait off a hook with out touching the hook, Sheepshead can be quite difficult to catch. The require patients and a sensitive rod/line combo. A very sharp hook should be set the moment a bite is detected. Do not get discouraged if bait is stolen frequently, it happens to the best Sheepshead fishermen frequently.