After a warm start to the new year, cooler weather has finally hit the Gulf Coast. On fishing trips, it was hard to decide whether to wear shorts or a heavy coat. Now that the 75-degree days are expected to disappear for a couple of weeks, it’s time to start looking for the first consistent fishing action of the year.
If you toss a piece of bait, any kind of bait, into a likely sheepshead spot and don’t get a bite within a couple of minutes, you might as well reel it in because you have been robbed.
And always carry plenty of sinkers, leaders and hooks because you are going to lose some tackle when you’re fishing around barnacle-encrusted rocks, pilings or petroleum platforms. I start out with 10- or 12-pound line, but if I keep getting cut off, I’ll move up to 15-pound-test. Fluorocarbon line also handles the abrasion better than monofilament. When it comes to hooks, you can use anything from No. 2 to 1/0 hooks. Because of the structure and the sheepshead’s tough mouth, forget about using a fine wire hook. The hook has to be strong or you’ll end up being disappointed after setting the hook. As far as rods, a little give at the tip will keep the fish from ripping the hook out of its mouth, but you’re going to need a rod with backbone to be able to get the fish out of the structure as soon as possible.
Be aware that sheepshead obviously have large heads and you need bigger fish to yield decent-sized filets. And, sheepshead aren’t that easy to clean, but the delicate, white flesh makes it worth the effort.