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Winter Sheepshead

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On: Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 4:08PM | By: Captain Sergio Atanes

Bo Wolfe & Ed Weiber and guest sheepshead

Sheepsheads are great fighters on light tackle, especially the big females that range from 5 to 12 pounds. Feeding on mostly shrimp, fiddlers, small crabs, and barnacles, they are considered a great table fare; some anglers even call them chicken of the sea. The big females migrate in from the Gulf of Mexico to spawn somewhere around mid-December, depending on water temperature, and hang around till late March. Last year the weather never got cold enough to bring the quantity of big ones as in past years, but we still had a good run of the big mamas.

Tackle depends where you are fishing for them. Around bridges and docks, medium/light spinning tackle, 15-pound test braided line and 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader with a #1 HD hook will work just fine. Fish hanging around these areas tend to be smaller, and most are males in the 1- to 3-pound class.

The big females, on the other hand, prefer the deeper waters of the bay, hanging around the ledges, wrecks, and rock piles in anywhere from 12 to 30 feet of water. Here I prefer to use medium tackle, a 7-foot rod medium action with a larger spinning reel with 20-pound test braided line and 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader tied with a loop knot to a 1/0 HD hook. I use a Texas rig where the sinker slides on the leader just ahead of the hook. I also use a small glow soft bead because this keeps the sinker from hitting the knot and the glow beads seem to draw the attention of the larger fish. The weight of the sinker is based on the current flow; I try to use the lightest weight possible since Sheepsheads are great bait stealers. Jig heads work great if you can find the ones with small hooks; most tend to have 2/0 to 3/0 hooks for Trout and Redfish and are a little on the big size.

Sheepshead favorite baits are live shrimp, dead fresh shrimp, fiddler crabs, bloodworms and sand fleas. Fiddlers work best, but live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp not the frozen ones but the ones the bait shop has right after their bait delivery before they have a chance to go into the freezer.

Bridges, docks and rocky shoreline are best spots for land based anglers. Boaters can target their favorite spots around artificial reefs, wrecks, ledges and rocky bottom. Remember, the deeper water holds the bigger fish.

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