By ARCHIE GIANNELLA
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 9, 2002
The hard-fighting, great-tasting sheepshead does not always get the respect it deserves. It seldom hits lures, but that's its only weakness.
Many sheepshead are caught by the classic method of fishing a heavily weighted bait, usually crab, against the downtide side of a bridge piling. This catches plenty of sheepies (particularly when barnacles or the non-native green mussels are scraped off as chum) but makes it too easy for the bucktoothed bait-stealers.
Sheepshead also frequent open-water rockpiles and deep rocky shorelines. A 10-pound test with a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader permits the average fish (2-6 pounds) to show off its fighting abilities while giving you a fair chance when that 12-pounder comes along.
Slow tides are best. Fish downtide of the rocks using a 1/0 beak or circle hook and a split shot or two. Crabs and seaworms are great bait and can be dug in the mud at low tide. Shrimp is a poor third choice. Because little or no weight is used, the sheepshead's ability to steal bait is reduced. Wait until the line starts to move before setting the hook. You'll be impressed by the battle a big one puts up on this tackle.
A seldom-used trick is to use a small float to keep the bait a foot off the bottom. The fish often swallow these baits when all others are stolen.
There is no need to keep your limit of 15. Half a dozen provide plenty of meat.
- Capt. Archie Giannella charters out of Tampa on The Noble Neil and can be reached at (813) 251-5512 or by e-mail at CaptArchie@mindspring.com.