Sheepshead?

chicochico Punta Gorda and PennsylvaniaPosts: 538 Officer
I am just curious about the sheepshead and their migration habits. I have always thought that they were a winter time fishery, but a friend of mine just returned from a month long stay in Punta Gorda and during his stay, he had days when he caught plenty of sheepshead out of the canals near his house. Anyone have any insight as to the sheepies habits??

Replies

  • nuclearfishnnuclearfishn Posts: 8,356 Admiral
    I caught some last weekend around redfish pass. They are definitely moving in.
  • jbsrqjbsrq Posts: 218 Deckhand
    they are always around but the larger ones move in thicker around this time, cooler water. you can catch them just about anywhere; around docks, rock structure, seawalls.
  • snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
    Anyone have any advice on being able to set a hook in their mouth? I can get the typical nibble, but never can get a hook set.
  • gasparillagasparilla Posts: 358 Officer
    jbsrq wrote: »
    they are always around but the larger ones move in thicker around this time, cooler water. you can catch them just about anywhere; around docks, rock structure, seawalls.

    This. I've actually taken clients on sheepshead charters into the Punta Gorda canals in February - there will be absolute beasts in there (6-8 lbs., some of them). The key is to set the hook before they bite :huh
    Cheap, fast, reliable - pick two . . .
  • nuclearfishnnuclearfishn Posts: 8,356 Admiral
    Anyone have any advice on being able to set a hook in their mouth? I can get the typical nibble, but never can get a hook set.
    very small stout hooks. Just like a snapper don't let them feel you on the line. I let them run with it.
  • snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
    very small stout hooks. Just like a snapper don't let them feel you on the line. I let them run with it.

    So do you keep your bail open & let them run for a few seconds then engage?
  • snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
    gasparilla wrote: »
    This. I've actually taken clients on sheepshead charters into the Punta Gorda canals in February - there will be absolute beasts in there (6-8 lbs., some of them). The key is to set the hook before they bite :huh

    Haha - so help me unpack "...set the hook before they bite"? Does that mean a lighting fast hook set at the first tiny bump? What kind of hook set up do you like (jig head, very small dense j hook with split shot ...)? Do you use shrimp or crabs ...? I'll be in Englewood in late December and have canal acces. Is there a certain part of the canals that you like to target (docks, corners, see walls, channel?)
  • chicochico Punta Gorda and PennsylvaniaPosts: 538 Officer
    Thanks for the replies, I was just surprised that they would be caught in Sept. and Oct. in the canals. The water was still warm. I use a small hook, small splitshot, and watch for the line to move horizontally, you will then know they have the hook, at least sometimes :) (I learned to use a strong length of mono leader, the braid will snap the second it touches the rocks or pilings). We fish for tautog off the NJ coast, very similar type of fishing, only usuall a little bit deeper, even MORE frustrating!!!
  • waterskunkwaterskunk Posts: 53 Deckhand
    I have had luck throwing shrimp and crab on a small little mustad hook with a split shot pinched just above the knot. Flipping right next to cover like docks or mangroves, they norm bite on the downfall. Best of luck, might want to try mangroves next to shell creek, bay side.
  • gasparillagasparilla Posts: 358 Officer
    Haha - so help me unpack "...set the hook before they bite"? Does that mean a lighting fast hook set at the first tiny bump? What kind of hook set up do you like (jig head, very small dense j hook with split shot ...)? Do you use shrimp or crabs ...? I'll be in Englewood in late December and have canal acces. Is there a certain part of the canals that you like to target (docks, corners, see walls, channel?)

    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you . . . I usually use a small (#1/2 or so) regular shank J hook. What I mean is you have to be super tuned in to the bait stealers - If the water is clear, we sight fish for them with live shrimp, free lined in front of them. As another poster said, watch for the line to move, watch for the fish to grab the bait, etc. There is a science to hooking them.

    There is not a specific area I target, just seawalls and pilings and docks where I see them or have caught them before. For me, January/February are the best, but there are some fish there even now (saw some this past week), they just aren't the pigs.

    I know some old timers who scrape the barnacles off the seawalls/pilings as chum. I've never tried that, as the Maverick doesn't have shovel storage.
    Cheap, fast, reliable - pick two . . .
  • jbsrqjbsrq Posts: 218 Deckhand
    and worst comes to works grab a speargun or polespear, jump in, blast away :wink

    I freedive spearfish mainly so thats my go to
  • snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
    gasparilla wrote: »
    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you . . . I usually use a small (#1/2 or so) regular shank J hook. What I mean is you have to be super tuned in to the bait stealers - If the water is clear, we sight fish for them with live shrimp, free lined in front of them. As another poster said, watch for the line to move, watch for the fish to grab the bait, etc. There is a science to hooking them.

    There is not a specific area I target, just seawalls and pilings and docks where I see them or have caught them before. For me, January/February are the best, but there are some fish there even now (saw some this past week), they just aren't the pigs.

    I know some old timers who scrape the barnacles off the seawalls/pilings as chum. I've never tried that, as the Maverick doesn't have shovel storage.

    Gasparilla & others - Thanks so much for the help, answers to questions and great info. I'm very thankful for good people who will share info and make the rest of us better!
  • fieromanfieroman Posts: 230 Officer
    i was out at ding darling last saturday and brought back 7 of them all caught on fiddlers. two of them were 17+ inches. i use a #2 circle with the fiddlers and hook up pretty good with them when i don't try and set the hook. the other times i go after them i will use a #2 owners j hook. Usually it takes me a few times to get the hang of it. when i went out to ding i had a few newbies with me thats why i was using the circles. i have noticed that the bait shops are carring the fiddlers for the people who don't know how to get the fiddlers
  • snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
    So with the circle hooks ... you keep the line tight and when the sheepy bites and takes off with the bait the hook does all the work and self sets?

    Anyone use sand fleas for Sheep Head?
  • fieromanfieroman Posts: 230 Officer
    yes i keep the line just a little tight. most of the times they hook them selfs. i like the little mudcrabs the best for sheepies as they really hold on to those crabs. really do i miss a sheepie when i use the mud crabs. i have never used sand fleas for them but i hear the work great. if you want to go with some time pm me your number and we can set something up. i mostly fish by land but i do have a 14 foot canoe, with a 6hp evinrude.
  • chicochico Punta Gorda and PennsylvaniaPosts: 538 Officer
    Just wanted to add that sometimes if you are just getting cleaned off, there might be a LOT of very small fish, they often don't take the hook, the bigger ones will have no problem swallowing a #1 hook. A short shank hook works best, but can be a real pain to get back out. A longer shank hook makes getting the hook out easier. NOTE: Hook has to be VERY sharp. I have had great luck one day using jigs, next trip out, can't hook any using jigs, gotta go back to hook and splitshot. Seems that for me, the jigs have worked the best at the Jetty, and the hooks work better at the pillings. I too have tried a little bit up chumming with what ever bait I am using, kinda turns them on to eating what I want to feed them.
  • PhlypperPhlypper Posts: 73 Greenhorn
    "
    gasparilla wrote: »
    The key is to set the hook before they bite :huh
    "

    Just like the old saying goes: count to three, and strike on two.

    We usually have good luck around deep docks, using DOA jigheads, using fresh live shrimp or sandfleas.
  • IdahojoeIdahojoe Posts: 51 Deckhand
    Can someone post some pics of how you are rigging for them. I'm new to this and would love to get into it.
  • gasparillagasparilla Posts: 358 Officer
    Idahojoe wrote: »
    Can someone post some pics of how you are rigging for them. I'm new to this and would love to get into it.

    I can't post pics right now, but I might can clarify a bit for you.

    Rods/reels - My preferred sheepshead rig is a 7' St. Croix Tidemaster, medium-light action; in fact, the tip is almost whippy, which is great for seeing those little bites; reel is a daiwa 700/1300 ss, usually rigged with 6/15 power pro; leader is about three feet of 20 lb flourocarbon - I use the yo-zuri pink stuff 'cause my eyes aren't very good, and the pink contrasts better on my white deck. You could use monofilament for the leader and be fine. I connect the leader to the main line with a uni-uni knot.

    The hooks - I prefer regular shank J hooks. Some of the other posters prefer circle hooks. If you look at a sheepshead's mouth, it's not giant, like a snook, so you have to make sure that the fish can get the bait (and hook) into his mouth - I use a size 1, 2, or 3 hook; if I were to use circle hooks, they'd probably be a little larger, maybe a 1/0 at the largest. For the record, I prefer owner mutu light circle hooks for most of my live bait fishing. Not sure about the others, but I rig every knot I tie with a mirrolure knot; this gives you a loop at the hook eye, and allows for a more natural bait presentation (which cracks me up, because I doubt there's much natural about a sand flea floating under a dock in a canal 2 miles up the Peace River, but hey, it works - just tie the loop knot and trust me on this one :) )

    If you want your bait on/near the bottom, add a small piece of split shot about 6-10" up the leader, coming from the hook. When I say small, I'm saying something approximate to the size of a BB, maybe a little bigger or smaller depending on the current.

    Based off what fieroman posted above, you want to keep your line tight when using a circle hook. I like to have some slack in my line using the J hook. I use hi-vis lines (bright yellow or orange) and watch the line for indications of a bite.

    Don't get frustrated. This is fun fishing. Depending on where you're at, you may end up with a keeper snapper or two; if you're using shrimp, snook, reds, tarpon and black drum have all crashed my sheepshead fishing. Not that I'm complaining.

    One last note: Do NOT try to catch sheepshead on a fly on the flats. This will result in hair loss.

    Take care and tight lines!
    Cheap, fast, reliable - pick two . . .
  • IdahojoeIdahojoe Posts: 51 Deckhand
    Are there places to wade fish for them or just from a boat?
  • fieromanfieroman Posts: 230 Officer
    you can fish from the shore at many different places for them. on of the best places that i like is in ding darling. that place is loaded with them
  • chicochico Punta Gorda and PennsylvaniaPosts: 538 Officer
    Idahojoe wrote: »
    Are there places to wade fish for them or just from a boat?

    You will find them on the rocks, jetties, etc. also at pilings from bridges, docks, piers, etc. They are usually scavenging for barnacles, crabs, etc.
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