Game Fishing > Saltwater Fish > Sheepshead fishing

Sheepshead fishing

Sheepshead fishingThis powerful fish is common, and ranges all along the coast from Cape Cod to Mexico; at Old Point Comfort, Va., the sheepshead appears in April or March and leaves in October. On the Florida reef, at Garden Key, it can be caught all the year round, but more frequently in summer. All down the Florida coast, it is a common winter fish; the Indian River region down to Biscayne Bay, is a favorite locality.

The oyster beds of the Chesapeake are a favorite locality for sheepshead, and there are nuĀ­merous fishing grounds about New York Bay, well known to boatmen, at Staten Island, Fort Hamilton, on the New Jersey shore, Jamaica Bay, Fire Island, South Bay, and various other localities.

The sheepshead reaches a length of thirty inches and a weight of twenty pounds, though the average is about ten. It is one of the most valuable of our food fishes and some Weight anglers prize it for its strength and game qualities. It is a slow-swimming fish, frequenting rocky shores in shallow water, piers, and old wrecks, the latter particularly being favorite resorts; and wherever a wreck can be located on the Atlanic Coast, good sheepshead fishing may be assured.

Its head is large and its body deep, and it has a large powerful tail; the mouth is large, and provided with a curious array of teeth, those in front being conical or incisory for tearing or biting. Back of these are others, in two or three rows, which are crushers or grinders.

These are suggestive of the habits of the sheepshead, which is equipped by nature to live upon shells and crustaceans, and wherever found, it feeds upon young oysters, barnacles, cockles, and crabs of various kinds. With the front teeth it wrenches shells from rocks or piers and passes them to the grinders where they are crushed.

It is caught on all kinds of tackle, but the most popular is the same as that used for the tautog, which it resembles in many ways. The rod is a short, medium casting rod for the ocean, with strong line, and large wooden reel; for inĀ­side bays, an eight-ounce bait rod, linen line, stout single leader, multiplying reel, a swivel sinker attached to the line and a No. 2 sprout hook. The best baits are oysters, clams, and crabs.

In baiting the hook with a small crab, it should be done so that the point of the hook passes through from the belly through the back, taking great care not to crush the body in hooking. If the hook is put through nearer the head, it will last much longer. The best time is during flood tide and the first and last of the ebb tide.

When the fish takes the bait it should be struck sharply, but not too soon - not till a second or third tug is felt. The time to strike is when it has the bait well in toward the crushers. After striking, when the hook is secure, give the fish line, for the first few dashes are most severe on the tackle, especially with a weighty fish.