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Summer Time Sheepshead

Summer Time Sheepshead Summer Time Sheepshead
By Jim Hammond

For those of us that like the hard battle and powerful runs of the sheepshead, we are almost, without quarry in the summer. You will note, I said almost. There are still a few of these tasty hard to catch fish available, if you know where to look.

You can go to some of the close in, offshore wrecks and find a few out there, but this is a lot of trouble for those with inshore boats. So here is the way that you can catch a few in the inshore waters. I did say a few didn't I? You are seldom going to fill a cooler with these summer time sheepshead but the ones that you catch will be pretty nice and just as difficult to catch as when fishing around the jetties.

I like to start out by getting my equipment ready, for a day of searching for sheepshead.

The Tackle:
I prefer a Shakespeare Intrepid medium heavy or heavy action spinning rod about 6 1/2 to 7 feet in length and a Intrepid SS 3835 or 3840 reel. I want to spool the reel with PowerPro 50 pound test. The reason for such heavy line is because you are going to have your drag pretty tight, a lot tighter than most styles of fishing. Slide a 3 inch long float on to line and crimp a couple of small split shot to the line, under the float. The hook is going to have to be VERY strong and have a chemically sharpened point, such as a Daichii D-18 in a 1 or 1/0 size.

The Bait:
I know most of you are like me when it comes to bait, especially shrimp, you do not want any small ones. This style of fishing, you will need the smallest ones you can get. I like a shrimp that is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. If you use great big shrimp, the fish will not be able to get the whole thing in its mouth.

The Area:
You are going to be fishing over the tops of covered oyster mounds, the larger the bed the better. This is mostly a high water fishery, so you need to be fishing on the last two hours of the incoming and the first two of the outgoing. You will need to have a pretty good idea of where the oyster mounds are, in the area that you wish to fish.

If there is no or light wind, you can put the trolling motor down and ease slowly along the outside of the oyster mounds. If there is a pretty good wind, you might want to put your anchor down and fish one area for about ten minutes, then move to the next.

Catching the Fish:
Take a live shrimp and hook it through the horn or through the last joint on the tail. Try not to put the hook through the vein that runs the length of the shrimp, as this will kill him and he will not swim for you. Set the depth of the float so that the bait is just barely over the tops of the oysters. Toss the rig out on the up current side and let it drift with the current over the mound. As you know, Mr. Sheepshead is a master in getting the bait before you can get a hook in him, so as soon as the float goes down, snatch back and be ready. If you have succeeded in getting a hook in a sheepshead you will wonder why you are listening to my advise. What I mean by this is, the hardest part is yet to come. If you think it is difficult getting sheepshead out of the jetties rocks and bridge pilling, wait until you hook one in an oyster bed. The oyster mound provides him with hundreds of sharp edges to cut your line. Now you will see why we are using 50 pound test PowerPro and why you will need to have your drag pretty tight. After you get a hook in one of these bad boys you are going to have to horse him out of the mound. Once you have him in open water he is almost as good as caught, but until then you are flirting with disaster.

What a battle, if you succeed in getting a few of these to the boat you will have passed the biggest test in catching sheepshead. Most of the ones that I hook seem to get back to the oysters and free themselves. Usually, after a few hours of this style of fishing, you have managed to get enough to eat and had all of the break offs that any sane person can stand in one day, but you have had fun.

I almost forgot to mention that there are other species that feed over the tops of the mounds, like, trout, reds, jacks and everyone's favorite, pinfish.

You probably will not catch more that about 6 to 8 in a tide, but the ones that come to the boat, you will have worked for and you will appreciate how easy it is fishing for them around the jetties.

With the rain that we have had in the past few days, the trout have moved back into the creeks and parts of the river near the ocean. I have my best success on these small fish during the out going tide, using a MirrOlure Catch 2000 or a shrimp on a Jaw Jacker Jig.

There have also been a few flounder around some of the rock piles and docks in the river. Shrimp or minnows on a jig have been working well.

The reds are feeding on mullet and big minnows on the low end of the tides. The skilled angler, can catch them on topwater using a Top Pup or a Provoker.

There are still good numbers of jacks and lady fish in the creeks and river. Some of the lady fish are pushing four pounds and what a fight the can provide. Give me a school of big lady fish any day, if I am only after string stretchers.

There are a few tarpon in the backwater, so be careful what you think you are throwing your new plug at, it might be something BIG.

The bottom boats are catching good numbers of beeliners, seabass, amberjacks, kings, barracuda and grunts. Houston Stephens of Houston's Meat Market had several nice snapper a few grouper and a large African pompano fishing aboard the King Neptune last week.

The sharks and tarpon are still on the beach and behind the shrimp boats. There are still good numbers of kings and barracuda on the wrecks, with a few cobia mixed in.

Don't forget to watch my fishing show. You can go to for the times and stations in your area.

If you are interested in going fishing with Capt. Jim, you can call me at 904 757-7550 in Jacksonville or email me at [email protected].

Good Fishing

Capt. Jim Hammond

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