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Sheepshead, Catching the Nice Ones

Sheepshead, Catching the Nice Ones Sheepshead, Catching the Nice Ones
By Jim Hammond

This is by far one of the most difficult species of fish to catch and for most anglers a day of sheepshead fishing can be very frustrating. Here are a few ways to catch the big ones.

Most people when sheepshead fishing use a small hook, a fiddler crab and fish around or in the jetty rocks. With this method you usually anchor your boat along the rocks and fish vertically, next to the rocks. This is a very good way to catch these feisty critters but can also be the most frustrating day of fishing that most of us have ever had. Most of us that try this method, bait the hook, send it down, feel the bite. set the hook, wind the rig back to the boat, bait up again and repeat this again and again. If we are lucky we manage to hook one or two of these bait getting bandits but most of us are just feeding them until WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH.

Here is a way that you can out smart some of these bandits and even manage to set the hook in more than one or two.

I like to start with a six to seven foot Shakespeare Graphite spinning rod, medium action. This rod is very sensitive to any action on the business end, therefore you can feel even the slightest tap from the bandits. Attach a Shakespeare Tidewater SS 4835 spinning reel to the rod and now you are half way there. This is Shakespeare's new saltwater series reel and has a smooth drag and is designed to resist the dissolving properties of saltwater if properly washed off after every trip. On the spool we will need a line that is designed to resist abrasions and has unbelievable sensitivity. It is important that you are able to feel even the slightest tap as these fish do not slam the bait on the bite. I use twenty pound test Power Pro braided line to feel every little movement on the bait.

Here is the part that most people have not tried. Tie to the end of the Power Pro a Jaw Jacker 1/8 or 1/4 ounce jig head and on that take a small (about 3 inches long) live shrimp, bite or pinch off the fin part of the tail and feed the shrimp on the hook. Now you have a rig that you have a DIRECT connection from the bait to the rod and you can feel everything that the bait comes in contact with, like Mr. Sheepshead.

Now that you have your rig ready, you are ready to find the hideouts for the bandits. I like to fish on the outside of the jetties (the ocean side). You can do this with the anchor down or on the trolling motor.

If you are going to put the anchor down, find a place where the water goes through the rocks, a low spot in the rocks or a washed out place. Set your anchor, close enough to the rocks, that you can make a cast just outside of them and slowly work the bait back to the boat. If you have a tight line, you will be able to feel everything that the bait comes in contact with and feel the slight tap from the sheepshead. When you feel the bite raise up on the rod tip and if it feels heavy, set the hook.

If the ocean is calm, I like to use the trolling motor to ease along the edge casting up in the rocks. I start at the end and point the boat toward the rocks. You are using the trolling motor to hold the boat still, until you have had time to work an area then ease down to the next spot. Most of the time there is almost no or very little current on the out side of the rocks, so it is not difficult to use the trolling motor to keep your boat positioned so you can fish these rocks.

I like to toss my shrimp just outside of the rocks and instead of turning the handle of the reel to work the bait, I like to lift up on the rod tip to slowly bring the bait back to me and when the rod tip is almost straight up, I lower my tip and wind in the slack. I then follow these steps again, until the bait is back to the boat. By doing this you always have a tight line and when you get hung up in the rocks, you can lift up on the tip to pull the jig over the rocks, instead of wedging it in them.

You are going to lose some tackle, you cannot fish in the rocks without losing a few jigs, so bring more than one or it will be a short day.

You are also going to catch fish other than sheepshead, like blennies, toadfish, grunts and an occasional redfish. You will sometimes be surprised with a redfish that runs out about 40 yards of line before you get a handle on him. Don't worry, if you have the rig that I mentioned above, you will have enough line on the spool and a stout enough hook to work him to the boat. Some of the sheepshead will also be in the six to eight pound class and might also run out some line before you get the net on them.

Important things:
Do not put your fingers near or in the mouth of the sheepshead, they have the jaws and teeth to bite your finger off. When you get hung in the rocks, do not wrap the line around your hand to break it. This braided line will cut you. Wrap a towel on your hand then the line. If your hook point gets dull or bent, either change it out or sharpen it, these fish have extremely tough mouths and you need a sharp hook. Live shrimp are better than dead. After I have the shrimp on the hook, I like to grab the head or the shrimp with my thumb and forefinger, pressing the two fingers together, so the head part of the shell comes off, leaving the innards and legs attached to the hook. This lets the smell of the shrimp get out better, thus more bites. If you find you are getting hung up a lot, use a lighter jig or toss your jig a little further out form the rocks.

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plguyton | Posted: November 8, 2003

what's a jaw jacker jig ?