Cold weather can lead to hot fishing this time of year, if you target the tasty sheepshead and friends; but, you have to have the right plan. That means more than dressing warm. It means changing gears completely in the days following a cold front. The deeper water of the canals, channels, rock piles and bridges that are all over the Bay will hold fish, especially sheepshead. The best time of year is November through April for the hottest bite.
Some days can be nonstop action. The bites can be fast and furious, but catching them is the tricky part. To make things easier, the first thing to remember about sheepshead fishing is to lighten up the gear. A 2500 to 3000 size reel on a 7’6″ medium action rod loaded with 10-pound braid and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader will get the trick done in most cases. If fishing the residential docks, bump up to 15-pound braid and 20-pound leader in case you run into a big redfish or black drum. They will all take the same baits as the sheepshead.
This is the time of year that live regular shrimp or even pieces of fresh shrimp will catch sheepshead, mangrove snapper, redfish, black drum and flounder. No need for the handpicks. You can get an elephant on a peanut. Pinch the tip of the tail off and use a #1/0 hook with a current appropriate split shot or barrel weight 1/8 to 1/4-ounce or 1/4-ounce jighead and you’ll be cranking them in. Other top baits include fiddler crabs, barnacles or bloodworms.
Sheepshead are also known as the convict fish. This is for two reasons; the black stripes, and they are notorious bait stealers. It’s said that, by the time you feel the bite, it’s too late. That’s why the lighter gear is key. Watch the line as you wait for the bite. If it twitches, start reeling. You’ll probably have a fish on!
The sheepshead has a 12-inch minimum size limit with eight fish per angler. It’s common to catch fish in the 1 to 5-pound range with fish of nine or more pounds considered trophy class.
If you would like to learn how to fish the Winter bite in the Bay, book a trip with Pocket Change. We have the gear, experience and the knowhow to get you on these great eating fish.