Herding sheep at the OBX

Corinna Eaton caught this sheepshead beside a piling of Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks. (Photo by Bryan Walker)

How to catch sheepshead on OBX bridge pilings

Sheepshead generally offer a reliable bite throughout the winter and into the early spring, and they are known for stacking up on bridge pilings all over the Outer Banks.

Bryan Walker of McGrady, NC travels to the Outer Banks to do battle with these fish, and finds plenty of them willing to bite. He’s especially fond of the Bonner Bridge pilings, which seem to hold big numbers of sheepshead.

Walker’s preferred method of catching these fish is shared by numerous other anglers in the area. They tie or anchor up next to the bridge pilings and use sand fleas as bait. They drop the fleas right beside the pilings, then keep the line tight as they wait for a bite.

“I like to just very slightly jig mine up and down,” said Walker. “I like to feel the pressure of the bite. So when I’m barely lifting it up, if I feel pressure, I set the hook,” he said.

It’s a pretty simple technique, and the rig  Walker uses is also pretty basic.

“I use 65-pound, high-visibility braid, tie that to a swivel, then a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader, a dropper loop tied to it, then a snap tied at the bottom with a 2-ounce weight,” he said.

A No. 1 live bait hook is tied to the dropper loop, so it is a foot or so above the weight. Walker hooks his sand fleas through the top shell, with the barb exposed at the meaty portion.

“These sheepshead like to eat from the meaty side of the sand flea. So I make sure my hook point is sticking out where the legs are,” he said.

Most importantly, Walker said anglers need to stock up on sand fleas, which are gathered in the surf zone of sandy beaches or bought from local bait stores.

“You want to start off with at least a gallon of sand fleas. You’ll go through a bunch. You’ll lose five sand fleas for every fish you catch,” he said.

He said anglers should drop their line down, keeping it so close to the piling that you can feel your weight touching it on the way down.

Walker said that some bridge pilings, and those of the nearby Bonner Bridge fishing pier, are off limits to tying off. Those areas are posted with signs, so anglers should be careful not to break any local laws.

Follow Walker’s fishing adventures at youtube.com/@fishtasy.

About Brian Cope 2395 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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