Florida Gulf Coast

Capt. Mike Anderson

February is the month of the Sheepshead for me and my customers. Normally windy conditions this month make these structure dwellers a perfect target along the docks of the intercostal waterways, bridges, markers, rock piles and artificial near shore reefs and wrecks. They can be easily identified by their black vertical bands which stand out against a dull white, gray or yellowish back ground. They are common from less than a pound to 4 pounds and fairly plentiful from 5 to 7 pounds with the occasional 10-pound monster being caught from an offshore wreck or reef. The Florida state record is 15 pounds 2 ounces. They are one of the best table fish that swim in our waters thanks in great part to their shellfish diet.  Normally not an aggressive striker but ounce hooked put up fight as good as any inshore species. Light tackle works best but the rod tip should be firm as they have a tough mouth that can make it hard to get a quality hook set. The best baits for me are live Shrimp but dead Shrimp and Fiddler crabs will both get the job done. Small pieces of oysters and clams will work as well. My favorite tactic is to put a small to medium live shrimp tail hooked on a ¼ ounce jig head and flip it up under the dock and let it sit. Lead colored or unpainted jig heads seem to work best. The live shrimp will do the work for you and the challenge of pulling these feisty creatures from under the docks is quite exciting. It is not uncommon for us to have 20 to 30 fish days using this method and we normally come away with a few nice Trout and some Redfish as well. Try a knocker rig especially on some of the deeper structure such as markers, bridges and nearshore wrecks and reefs. Nicknamed the Convict Fish or Bait-stealer due to its appearance and propensity to remove your shrimp from your hook without you even knowing it. Sheepshead can fill your February with quality fish stories and some good eats for you and your family.

Catch Capt. Michael Anderson every Saturday for Reel Animals Saturday on 970WFLA from 6:00am to 8:00am and Sunday mornings on AM620 for the TA Mahoney Co. Reel Animals Radio Show from 7am to 9am or to book a trip call 1-866-Gamefish