The Art of Catching a Sheepshead in Georgia
As the water temperature in the saltwater river, creeks and ocean continues to lower, it is time to sharpen your sheepshead fishing skills, or develop them for the first time. This presentation is aimed toward that very goal. Those efforts are geared toward boat fishing for them, offshore.Bait:
The preferred bait for these toothy critters is fiddler crab as an abundant forage found all along the Georgia coast. Other baits are successful in catching the "convict fish" too, but the fiddler seems to work best. Fresh clams, oysters and even fresh shrimp can net these bait stealers of the deep. You can catch your own bait of buy it from local bait dealers. Hard core sheepshead fishermen go to great lengths to acquire an adequate supply for their needs. Tackle:
A stout rod is a necessity for this type fishery. By stout I mean a rod with a strong backbone, but a light or sensitive tip. Spinning reels or conventional (level wind) reels are the choice and preference of the individual angler. Braided line is a wise choice from the standpoint of feeling the bite and the hookup with the fish. Monofiliment line will work as well, but will stretch and not have the line feel for the bite. Rigs can be an egg sinker, fish finder type or a dropper rig with the weight on the bottom and a single dropper hook.
Some anglers prefer J hooks over circle hooks. I use only circle hooks and use smaller hooks of a red color. Federal regulations may mandate circle hooks only under the current edicts of those regulators. Check with your local ranger or the Georgia DNR.
The key is to change tactics, rigs and baits often and stick with what works for you as an individual angler. For instance, circle hooks are hard to learn with respect to not setting the hook. But you may be required to use them if J hooks are banned in federal waters. Anchoring and Drifting:
Since you are fishing structure with holes and crevasses in the seabed, drifting is out of the question.
On a trip last year, my crew and I got a good laugh out of another boat drifting over the drop with multiple hook-ups only to lose the fish as the boat drifted out of the holes, and the line was cut by the growth of barnacles on the structure.
You need to anchor with a grapple type reef anchor, and after a good anchor set, pull in the rode scope until you are right over the structure. That tactic means that you are fishing as straight down to the holes and crevasses as possible. Feeling the bite is the reward for that tactic. That tactic is the only way to net a great catch for you crew. Weather and Sea Conditions:
A calm day at sea is essential for success at this type angling. One to two foot seas is the ideal condition for a day at this fishing adventure. There are or seem to be more of this type weather in the late fall and winter than at other seasonal times. Boats:
Any seaworthy boat will do the trick for you under the right conditions as alluded to under the weather title above. A center console is my personal preference. RIP - Saltwaternecker