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Captain's corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001

You can count on sheepshead to save the day. Even with improving weather, the sluggish tides before today's full moon have slowed the bite. Sheepshead, however, have been caught consistently in residential canals. Species such as snook, redfish, snapper and grouper also inhabit these areas but are seldom as cooperative as the sheepies.

When searching for productive areas to fish, look for a few key things.

First, seek canals that are at least 6-12 feet deep. Then, look for large boats. These boats often are sitting in a slightly deeper hole that concentrates fish. Choose docks with numerous pilings and good barnacle build-up. Additional structure such as nearby oysters or riprap along the sea wall is a bonus. A drainpipe with fresh water runoff should never be overlooked.

I have been arming myself with an 8-pound test-spinning rod and live shrimp. A simple knocker rig, similar to that used in the Keys for snapper, has made casting easy. I double the main line and attach 18 inches of 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader. A one-eighth-ounce egg sinker is then allowed to ride right down against a No. 1 hook. Pinching the fan off the shrimp's tail allows the scent to trickle out and bring the fish in.

The drill has been to cast up under the docks, let the shrimp settle to the bottom and crank as slowly as possible, keeping the line just tight enough to detect a strike. The beauty of this technique is that it also works for the more glamorous species. The truth, however, is that a sheepshead sandwich tastes just as good as a grouper sandwich.

- Brent Gaskill charters the Summer Vacation. Call (727) 867-1751.

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