It’s big sheepshead time for fishermen in the Charleston area, according to John Fuss of Holy City Fishing Charters, who said he and his parties have had plenty of days catching 30 or more fish.
"The sheepshead have been out of control lately,” said Fuss (803-417-3052), who said November is the month when many of the larger, 5- to 10-pound fish move into Charleston waters with an appetite.
Fuss uses a Carolina rig with a 6-foot-6 medium-light outfit, the reel spooled with 20-pound braid and an 8-inch leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon and a 1/0 to 2/0 Mosquito hook tied on. He uses an egg sinker ¼- to ½-ounce, but sometimes the weight has to be upped to a full ounce depending on the current.
“The sheepshead are being caught in depths from 6 to 20 feet right now, but most fish are holding in 8 to 10 feet of water,” he said.
Fuss said the secret to finding sheepshead is scouting at low tide. The fish love structure that supports barnacles and oysters, and he suggested scraping some of the barnacles off with a shovel before dropping your bait, chumming as it were. He fishes live shrimp, fiddler crabs of slices of oyster for bait.
“Look at where others have scraped barnacles off pilings, and that is where the fish will be,” Fuss said. “I have had more luck fishing where people have scraped off barnacles than untouched pilings.”
After scraping the barnacles, Fuss will bait his hook with his preferred bait, oyster meat. He ties his boat off to the structure and jigs his line vertically next to the chummed water. Fuss suggests putting your finger on the line and watching the line for the slightest movement. Sheepshead are notoriously difficult to set the hook on, and the slightest movement in the line can be the only sign you get before reeling up a clean hook.
“Do not be afraid to fish many different spots. If you have not gotten a bite in 15 minutes, reel in and move to a different spot,” said Fuss, who said fishermen should look for sheepshead around anything from docks to bridge pilings to jetty rocks and said the best time to catch sheepshead is two hours on either side of low tide.
“Don’t get frustrated about losing bait, and make sure you have your drag locked down tight before you hit the water,” he said.