The Sheep Come Marching In
The lion and lamb analogy, in terms of March weather, is so true here in the Big Bend. If the little voice in your head hints, “Better try it another day with better weather.”, listen and heed. We’ve all ignored it in times past, and can share horror stories about who was the dumbest amongst us. If there are many voices in your head, can the fishing trip, and go see a shrink. Nobody should be on a boat with you :)
By the time you’re reading this, the sheepshead should be in full spawn. In the past decade, the sheepshead huddle-up to make more sheepshead in mid to late February. The Steinhatchee Reef and the Shrimp Boat are popular spots to fish for sheepshead, and meet lots of people on the weekends. Should you be planning to go, go early.
There are many techniques to catch sheepshead. I like to keep things simple. Here are some of my thoughts. Use rod/reel combinations you’d typically catch trout and redfish. Those lighter weight combos improve your sensitivity. Sensitivity is of utmost importance to catch, not feed sheepshead. Braided line further increases sensitivity, and furthermore, doesn’t catch the current and billow, due to the thinner diameter. I use twelve pound test mono, or twenty braid. A short section of heavier leader material is recommended. Use the lightest weight or jig-head necessary to hold the bottom. Heavy sinkers reduce sensitivity. Long shank hooks are preferred, because of the difficulty of hook removal. The vise-like jaws of sheepshead are dicey to deal with, especially considering the hardware in the mouth. The long shank is helpful. You don’t want your digits around the mouth.
I use a knocker rig where the egg sinker rides on the leader next to the hook. This rig is easier to dislodge if hung on the bottom.
Bait… Some folks only go with live shrimp, which is great. I’ll also use fresh frozen shrimp or fiddler crabs. Use a thinner wire hook for fiddler crabs, so that it won’t bust the crab apart. Some folks bait with fresh shucked oysters. I can’t do that, because there is a bottle of hot sauce on my boat.
The limit for sheepshead is wisely set at eight per angler. It is also wise to release the egg-laden females for the children.
After fishing for sheepshead, bounce around hard bottom nearby, to pick-up sea bass with a couple surprise flounder.