Targeting Winter Sheepshead
Sheepshead is a great target nearly all year-round. They’re a good species in the winter months when other fish aren’t biting or biting slowly. The big thing to consider is structure. Docks and bridge pilings are the prime locations, especially those structures with barnacles and growth. These structures provide not only protection for the Sheepshead, but they’re also a home for small crustaceans that fish crave, and Sheepshead like eating the barnacles as well. It’s not uncommon to see fish bumping around. Keep your bait tight to the structure so the fish can easily find it. It’s helpful to take a small shovel and scrape some of the barnacles into the water to create a scent that will attract the Sheepshead and potentially other fish. Artificial reefs, jetties, and other structures are also great spots to look for Sheepshead.
The mouth of the Sheepshead is boney and small, which is perfect for cracking down and crunching barnacles and crustaceans. Fiddler crabs make the best bait option, however, live shrimp or squid will also work if you hook them properly. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose your bait quickly. Again, use Fiddler crabs if possible.
Sheepshead will not devour bait like most saltwater fish. Instead, they seem to enjoy the meal before swallowing it. When you feel the tap on the bait, be patient and wait. Let the fish commit to the meal. Keep tension on the line as the bumps continue. Once you feel your line start to move or go slack, give it a good tug to set the hook. Remember the mouth of the Sheepshead is hard and boney.
Put on a jacket, grab some Fiddler crabs and head out. Look for the most barnacled dock you can find, and then go to town. It’ll make for a fun winter’s day of fishing.