The Almighty Sheepshead

By Cam Staff Daytona Fishing

Boy I’m sure glad that I’m not standing in two feet of snow right now! The weather is beautiful here in Central Florida this time of the year. February is one of my favorite months to fish for sheepshead. A lot of people underestimate the power in the almighty sheepshead. They give off a tremendous fight, and they are super cool looking as well. For those of you who don’t know what a sheepshead looks like, it looks like a zebra with its black and white stripes. Before I tell you how to catch these fish there are some things I want you to check out when you do bring it in to your boat or to the pier. Take a look at their mouth and notice their teeth. They have very human like looking teeth in their small mouth, which helps you discover why it is so hard to hook them. They also have quite an overbite with their teeth kind of sticking out allowing them to nibble away at the bait.

Now a lot of people believe in the old method: one, two, three—set the hook. I believe that you just have to get the feel of it and once you get a couple of fish in the boat you will have the hang of it. You do have to handle these fish with care as they have a very spiny back and a sharp fin that sticks straight up. Take caution when handling.

Another great thing about the sheepshead is that they are great dinner fare. They are hard to clean, to a certain extent, but just take your time when filleting them and I promise it will be well worth it.

Now on to the fun part—how to catch these wiry little buggers! This time of the year the water is very clear because of the lack of rain, meaning less tannin in the water, so depending on where you are fishing—it may be bridges, piers, canals, rock ledges or creeks—you should take your time, stand up in your boat, look over the edge, and pay attention to all the structure, and you will see the black and white striped sheepshead. A lot of the old timers that fish on the piers use to bring a scraper with them and they would scrape the barnacles off the pilings to put the sheepshead into a feeding frenzy. That is a good method and it still works.

Now if you are on a boat I recommend using small to medium sized shrimp. Cut them in half or use them whole, whichever you prefer. Put the shrimp on a 1/0 circle hook with a 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader about 3-4 feet long. You can use an egg weight sinker, quarter ounce or split shots up the leader about a foot to a foot and a half. Try to anchor away from the fish that you find a good 20 yards so that you don’t spook them by making noise in your boat. Cast to them and have some patience, once they start feeding normally the rest of the school will feed at the same time.

When you catch the first one get ready to have some fun. Cast back into the school and fill up your live well. These fish give off a wonderful fight so make sure you check your drag. Your sheepshead has to be a minimum of 12 inches in length and you can have up to 15 per person per day. Have fun out there, be safe and take a kid.