Fishing Report January 31, 2016

Falling water temps results in new targeted species

Numerous cold fronts and falling water temperatures have ushered in a new species for both residents and visiting anglers to target.

That’s right — it’s sheepshead time once again. Herds of these vertically striped back and white fish are congregating in preparation for their spawn. Hot spots to find these tasty barnacle-munching fish are assessable by both land and boat fishers. For land fishers, the local fishing piers are host to numerous sheepshead. For these in boats, artificials reefs, wrecks and rock piles can be the ideal habitat for these buck-toothed fish.

What’s interesting about sheepshead is the can be quite finicky at times, especially around the local fishing piers and residential docks. Pier fishers who are serious about sheepshead will carry a variety of baits including fiddler crabs, sand fleas tube worms and, of course, shrimp. The sheepies around the piers tend to become immune to shrimp after a couple of week and that’s when the alternative baits come into play.

If you’d had your fill of sheepshead, there are other wintertime fish to catch. Redfish and black drum are being found around docks and oyster bars in the local bays and Intracoastal Waterway. Casting live shrimp to these fish will usually trigger a strike. If not, persistence will pay off. Keep soaking baits. Remember, when water temps are low, these fish become less motivated to search for food. This being said, you may need to pit the bait right in front of their noses to get a bite.

On my own Just Reel charters, we are cashing in on the abundance of sheepshead on the local reefs, wrecks and rock piles. Live shrimp sent to the bottom on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are resulting in sheepies up to six pounds. Limits of these are attainable but we’ve usually been keeping about 15-20 sheepies per trip. While targeting sheepshead, we’re also catching mangrove snapper, juvenile grouper and some oversized black drum.

When the winds are blowing too strong to make it to the reefs, I’m moving to the backcountry to dock fish for redfish and black drum. Keeper-sizes of both species are being taken on live shrimp cast under docks.