It used to be that fish like black drum and sheepshead were not considered top fish to target; luckily the mindset has changed. In New Orleans, black drum are featured in some of the finest restaurants. Sheepshead, when pan sautéed, are absolutely delicious. Both of these fish can be caught in many different areas, and you don’t necessarily need a boat to get them. Both fish like to hang around dock and bridge pilings off Dog Island and in the river mouths. It is important to use small hooks and light leaders because these fish have very tactile mouths and are really good at spitting out anything that doesn’t feel right. I like to use a 1/0 short shank J-hook and sometimes not have a leader if the fish are being tough to take the bait. It is important to not strike or set the hook. Let them take it and slowly tighten up the line with an easy upward stroke. This is a finesse game and does not require a heavy hook set. For bait, sheepshead can not resist a fiddler crab. These small coastal crabs can be collected at low tide at many places along the shore. Shrimp are great for both fish, and a small piece fished beside a pier can pay off. Black drum are also found along the beaches in our area and, throwing a jig tipped with bait will get their attention.
Bull redfish line up in the deeper channels around East Pass and Dog Island Reef. These fish can be in the 20 pound class or better. Try bouncing a jig or bait rig along the bottom right off the edge of the channel and hold on! Heavy rigs in the 15 or 20 pound class will be needed since these bruisers are big and tough.
Offshore, the catch is somewhat limited due to regulation closures, but don’t think there is no reason to get out there. The black sea bass spawn will be in full swing and these fish are a nice size. Dropper rigs, deep jigs, and hook and sinker rigs are all you need for a big catch. The take is large and this fishery is really fun for the younger angler. Watch the weather…about a day or two after a cold front passes, the seas should calm down and this is the time to get after them.
The water temperature can be pretty cold in the Gulf, so it is wise to take extra precautions when heading out. The inclusion of a personal SARSAT Beacon, or what is called an EPIRB, in your ditch bag can be a life saver. Always tell someone that you’re going out and where you’ll be, this is referred to as a “float plan.”
Good luck out there and be safe.
CAPT. CHESTER REESE
Natural World Charters