The sheepshead bite is on fire in the Hilton Head area, and Capt. Rick Percy of Reel Chance Charters said fiddler crabs fished around structure has helped him have his share of 100-fish days this past week. While the fish are definitely around and definitely biting, Percy said anglers still have to find them, and that hasn’t been especially easy lately. Percy said anglers hitting the nearshore reefs and wrecks are having the most productive days.
“Things are inconsistent inshore right now. Some days are banner days, and some days are big zeros, but the reefs like the General Gordon, Fish America and the Hilton Head Tire Reef are full of a big variety of fish. The sheepshead are biting well on them, including some really nice-sized ones,” Percy said.
One of the most important aspects of fishing these structures, Percy said, is making sure you are anchored properly. Many anglers seem to think that if they are at least near the reef, they are close enough. They may hold true on some days and with certain species, but it is rarely true for sheepshead. Anchoring just a foot off can mean the difference between getting a bite on every cast and not getting bit at all. Watching their depth finders and factoring in the wind and current are details that experienced anglers don’t mind spending plenty of time on to get anchored in just the right spot.
Percy (803-535-6166) finds this part of the job much easier after having upgraded his anchoring system, giving up the old style anchor for a Minn-Kota I-Pilot, a 112-pound thrust trolling motor that uses GPS to keep the boat positioned in one spot. This makes it much easier than resetting an old metal anchor to make small adjustments when the bite slows.
Dropping fiddler crabs straight down is the only type of casting sheepshead anglers need to do, so using enough weight to get the bait down is key. Once anglers feel their Carolina-rigged hook hit the structure, they should turn their reel handle a few times to keep the hook from getting hung up. Some continue to slowly turn the reel handle —very slowly — until they feel a bite. Other anglers slowly raise their rod tips, then slowly lower them while anticipating a bite.
Aside from fiddler crabs, anglers are also catching sheepshead on oyster meat, and Percy urges anglers not to be shy when threading bait on their hooks. Using more than one fiddler crab, or a combination of fiddler crab and oyster meat, is a good strategy for enticing bites and for discouraging the smaller fish from biting.