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Prespawn fish driven by hunger

Freshwater bass fishermen eagerly await the prespawn condition when bass are feeding aggressively and seem to strike anything.

There are several species of saltwater fish that exhibit this behavior. Sheepshead inshore and triggerfish offshore can be targeted using similar methods. Both have small mouths and sharp teeth, and they graze for food. Sheepshead and triggers feed on barnacles, crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans. They will be found near structures that hold an abundant food supply.

Sheepshead will be near docks, bridges, piers and sea walls close to the passes and covered with barnacles or oysters. Barnacles and oysters are filter feeders and grow best in areas with strong tides. Some sheepshead will be found in residential canals with little tidal flow, but the majority will inhabitareas with strong flow.

Triggerfish will be found on the same type of offshore structures that gag grouper inhabit. Ledges, rock piles and artificial reefs from 5 to 25 miles offshore usually hold large concentrations of triggerfish and mangrove snapper this time of year.

Terminal tackle must be downsized to target these species with a 1/0 short-shanked live bait hook. Light wire circle hooks in the same size are rapidly taking over as the hook of choice. The key to their use is to "work them, don't jerk them." Rod tips should be held close to the water if fishing from a boat. When the bite is felt, the reel should be cranked to set the hook. Sinkers should be just heavy enough to take the bait to the bottom and hold it in place. They can range from a split shot inshore to 4 ounces offshore if the current is strong. Fifteen- to 20-pound conventional or spinning outfits can be used, depending on personal preferences.

Barnacles, oysters, small crabs and pieces of shrimp are the best baits for both species when combined with the small hook-and-sinker combination. Triggerfish are opportunistic feeders and will attack a piece of squid or small piece of Spanish sardine or cut up pinfish or grunt in addition to other baits.

_ Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at