Sheepshead Fishing 101: Things to Know for a Better Catch
Sheepshead, also known as convict fish, is often found in the western Atlantic sea—from Nova Scotia, Brazil’s northern coast, and through the Gulf of Mexico. You can catch them all year round, but they are more abundant during colder months.
The sheepshead is a saltwater fish in the Sparidae family. They have large incisors similar to that of a sheep, thus its name. It is also known as convict fish because of the vertical black bars used to identify convicts when they are incarcerated.
If you are planning a fishing trip for some sheepshead, here are some things you should know to improve your chances of catching a lot of fish.
When Is the Best Time to Fish for Sheepshead?
Sheepshead is known for being finicky eaters. You might be fooled by their behavior at sea—one minute they eat every bait thrown at them; the next one, the bite is dead. Sheepshead even ignores baits with no hooks, so it is not the right strategy to lure them in.
For successful sheepshead fishing, here’s one thing to note: tidal movement.
A sheepshead’s bite is strongest two hours before and one hour after the tide peaks and ebbs. One reason for this is the behavior of their food. Barnacles are most active in moving water, plus shrimps and crabs get carried away by the current every time the tide changes.
How Can You Catch Sheepshead?
When you watch sheepshead, you should first locate the best spot. For instance, they are known to stay in areas where there are a lot of crustaceans — hard-surface areas, piers, docks, bridges, oyster bars, and reefs.
Once you settle in a fishing location, it’s time to prepare for catching. You may opt for dropper rigs or float rigs for catching.
Dropper rigs are ideal for deeper, submerged structures like oyster beds and reefs. They are needed in areas where fishes are near the bottom of the piling. On the other hand, float rigs are best for shallow waters like docks. They work best with vertical structures where fish is closer to the surface.
When fishing for sheepshead, keep a slight tension on the line so that you will feel the sheepshead’s subtle bite. Usually, they nip at the bait gently and you might miss it if you’re not closely monitoring. For the best results, set the hook at the slightest bump you feel.
What Type of Bait Does a Sheepshead Like?
Sheepshead is known to eat a wide range of foods. Some of the most popular baits for catching this fish are fiddler crabs, clams, and shrimp. However, you should note that clams might not be the best choice as sheepshead can quickly steal them off the hook. Other baits commonly used for catching sheepshead are oysters, barnacles, and squid.
You can improve your chances of catching some sheepshead by keeping these things in mind. Make sure to choose the right time of the day to fish. You should also know the right bait that you can use.
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