What's hot: Sheepshead fishing is steadily improving in the lower bay. They are considered a go-to fish during the winter months but their best action typically occurs during a transition into spring, when they migrate to the passes and out to rocky structures in the near shore gulf waters to congregate for spawning. With warm conditions, our spring seems to be arriving early so the sheepshead have already begun their journey.
Bait choices: The No. 1 bait is fiddler crabs. Their downside is the time and effort to acquire them. A few local tackle shops sell them; call ahead to assure availability. Shrimp are the easiest bait to use and to obtain. Smaller shrimp or fresh chunks of shrimp will outperform larger ones. Oysters and barnacles also make excellent alternative baits for sheepshead.
Rig right: Heavy tackle is needed only from a pier or bridge where added lifting power is necessary. Typically a 10- to 12-pound mainline is sufficient with a section of 20-pound leader. A knocker-rig where a sliding weight rides on the leader and rests directly on the eye of the hook is the simplest to use and very effective. Use just enough weight to feel in contact with your bait while keeping it in the strike zone. Use short shank sturdy hooks to withstand the sheepshead bony jaw and shell-crushing teeth.
Brent Gaskill runs Summer Vacation Charters out of the St. Petersburg area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727)510-1009.