How to catch sheepshead in the heat
Chasing “convict” fish — sheepshead — provides action and challenges for adults and children. If you find a hot spot beneath a bridge, you also can fish in shady comfort. And sheepshead make great table fare.
Any inside waters with relatively shallow depths (4 to 12 feet) and barnacles — piers, boat docks, edges of oyster beds, concrete rubble, pilings — may offer a mother lode of these striped battlers that may weigh from 2 to 14 pounds.
All it takes to catch them is a good supply of fiddler crabs, a 7-foot rod (even a cane pole), 20-pound-test braid for main line and a Carolina rig (1-ounce barrel weight, black swivel, 2 feet of 40-pound-test fluorocarbon leader tied to a swivel above a 2/0 Owner octopus hook).
Fiddler crabs are great baits. And they’re sold in many coastal bait-and-tackle shops. You can also catch them yourself in many marshes at low tide.
A quick hookset is required
But be aware — fiddlers can pinch fingers with their largest claw. Hold the big pincher against its body when picking up or hooking.
A favorite July or August boating approach is to anchor beneath a highway bridge piling for shade. Anglers lower fiddlers (or mole crabs or pieces of barnacle) down a piling’s side where sheepshead work with their sharp teeth.
Sheepsheads inhale crabs then crush them with two rows of upper and lower molars. They nip at barnacles with sheep-like upper and lower teeth.
The best advice to catch light-biting sheepshead is keep the line tight, lower baits to the bottom, then reel in a foot or so beside a piling or structure. If line moves away or you feel a tug, snap your wrist to set the hook and keep the fish’s head turned up.
Good inside-waters areas to find sheepshead include any bridges, piers, jetties, rock walls or other places with concrete or wooden structures in the water.
The N.C. record sheepshead was caught by Christopher Robbins in 1999 and weighed 19 pounds, 4 ounces. The S.C. record weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces and was caught by Jimmy Widener in 2008.