It’s the most wonderful time of the year — sheepshead have arrived

Those fishing around Anna Maria Island are now experiencing the peak of sheepshead season. This celebrated time of year is occurring with sheepies being caught around most structure. Whether its residential docks, fishing piers, sea walls, rock piles, wrecks, reefs now is the time to go catch some sheepies.

Just prior to the spawn, these fish are feeding heavily on all sorts of crustaceans. Barnacles, crabs, shrimp, and even coquinas are not safe while these hungry fish gorge themselves in preparation to spawn. The popularity of this bite is attained simply by the fact that these fish are accessible to most anglers. 

Since you can catch them from the piers or bridges or even along the beaches, most anyone can get in on the action. And, as far as bait is concerned, it can be as easy as stopping by a local bait or tackle shop and purchasing live shrimp. Those that want to employ some strategy to their sheepshead fishing may go through the trouble of harvesting fiddler crabs or sand fleas. And at time these baits will give an added advantage, especially if the sheepies get finicky.

For anglers fishing out of a boat, local reefs, wrecks and rock piles are favorite spots to target these zebra-striped fish. Generally, live shrimp as bait works fine for these areas.

If you’re itching to go out and catch some fish, now is a great time to try. Not only do the sheepshead put up a great fight on medium-spinning tackle, they are also a favorite on the plate. Just remember, sheepshead must be 12 inches total length and you are allowed a daily bag limit of 8 per person.

On my Just Reel charters, I’m finding many large sheepies throughout Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. Most catches are in the 2-pound range, although fish 6-7 pounds are being reeled up by lucky anglers. While targeting the sheepies, I’m also seeing a mix of mangrove snapper, hogfish and Key West Grunts.

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