Summer sheepshead tactics

Fishing guide Jeff Wolfe caught this sheepshead, a typical-sized one for the summer. (Photo by Craig Holt)
Fishing guide Jeff Wolfe caught this sheepshead, a typical-sized one for the summer. (Photo by Craig Holt)

How to catch sheepshead in the heat

Chasing “convict” fish — sheepshead —  provides action and challenges for adults and children. If you find a hot spot beneath a bridge, you also can fish in shady comfort. And sheepshead make great table fare.

Any inside waters with relatively shallow depths (4 to 12 feet) and barnacles — piers, boat docks, edges of oyster beds, concrete rubble, pilings — may offer a mother lode of these striped battlers that may weigh from 2 to 14 pounds.

All it takes to catch them is a good supply of fiddler crabs, a 7-foot rod (even a cane pole), 20-pound-test braid for main line and a Carolina rig (1-ounce barrel weight, black swivel, 2 feet of 40-pound-test fluorocarbon leader tied to a swivel above a 2/0 Owner octopus hook).

Fiddler crabs are great baits and are sold in many coastal bait-and-tackle shops. You can also catch them yourself in many marshes at low tide.

But be aware — fiddlers can pinch fingers with their largest claw. Hold the big pincher against its body when picking up or hooking.

A shady spot

A favorite July or August boating approach is to anchor beneath a highway bridge piling for shade. Anglers lower fiddlers (or mole crabs or pieces of barnacle) down a piling’s side where sheepshead work with their sharp teeth.

Sheepsheads inhale crabs then crush them with two rows of upper and lower molars. They nip at barnacles with sheep-like upper and lower teeth.

The best advice to catch light-biting sheepshead is keep the line tight, lower baits to the bottom, then reel in a foot or so beside a piling or structure. If line moves away or you feel a tug, snap your wrist to set the hook and keep the fish’s head turned up.

Good inside-waters areas to find sheepshead include any bridges, piers, jetties, rock walls or other places with concrete or wooden structures in the water.

The post “Summer sheepshead tactics” first appeared on CarolinaSportsman.com.

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About Craig Holt 7 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp, N.C., has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers and magazines before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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