Winter is finally here! Despite the cold weather fishing has been good! Fish are cold blooded. As water warms anticipate the bite to be stronger. Cold rainy overcast days are least fun to fish and the least productive. Prior to this cold wave water temperature ranged from the upper 50’s to the low 60’s. Mild days with lots of sun brought fish up to shallows. The sea trout bite was good, mostly on artificials.. Live lining a mud minnow is another favorite winter technique. Don Adams, Adams Bait House, is finding shrimp south of Savannah. Don reports the bait he is finding is in one location and small. Most of shrimp fishermen associate with winter fishing are large shrimp coming from deep holes. The shrimp Don is finding is about 3 inches. This is a prefect size for school size fish. Miss Judy and I have mentioned several times this year how useful fishing a dead shrimp or “bugged out” can be. A piece of dead shrimp can add scent to the water, perhaps mimicking a fiddler crab. Regardless of exactly why it works it is safe to say fishing a piece of dead shrimp can be very effective for red drum, sea trout, sheepshead and black drum. A mud minnow while a great bait wont produce sheepshead and black drum bite like a piece of fresh dead shrimp.
Sheepshead can be tricky to catch. The technique is simply vertical fishing around structure such as fallen trees, dock pilings, rip raps, rocks, bridge abutments to name some likely structure. In short any structure that has at least 4 or more at low water and plenty of barnacles and oyster growth is a candidate to be fished. Where shells are individually broken off this can indicate sheepshead activity. The sheepshead bite per Capt. “Wild Bill” can be hot one day and off the next. It’s likely there are fish there but for whatever reason just not biting. When sheepshead fishing I look for immediate gratification. To start don’t be so concerned what the bites feel like as long you’re getting bites. The presence of small fish can mean some larger fish are present. As fishermen begin to focus on the bite the percentage of fish caught will pick up. If you feel a bump and your bait is gone. The shore answer is change what you’re doing. With super braids massive hook sets aren’t needed just firm and deliberate. Generally fishing with a low rod tip works best. Sheepshead are fast but obliging. Feeling the bottom is critical. After your egg sinker touches the bottom ever so slowly start jigging the bottom with pauses. After a minuet or so reel in and check your bait
Some Sheepshead Rigging Tips
Fish as light as possible! Sounds pretty straight forward but lets look a little closer. As the tide diminishes not as much weight is required to sink your bait to the bottom. Downsizing your egg sinker to a 1/4 ounce can provide sensitivity that the standard 1 ½ ounce egg sinker can’t match. Leader material can vary. You can not go wrong with fluorocarbon. A short leader generally works best. A 12 inch leader would be a long leader. I’m fishing leaders from 7 to 9 inches of mostly 20 pound leader material. Its hard for me to get away from 25 pound fluorocarbon simply because I’ve seen so many fish (in the 10 pound range) safely landed with that test of leader material. There are several types on the market. For the specifics you will have to attend Miss Judy Inshore seminar. I will say a characteristics of a quality leader material is that it is smooth. Bumpy leader material feels like the line is inconsistent. An inconsistent line could mean stronger in one spot and weaker in another. All leader materials are not created equal. If a 10 pound fish is breaking a 25 pound leader there’s a problem. Typical you should be able to put a lot of pressure on a fish without a break off. Granted your drag must not be locked down. Typically a few pound of pressure on a fish is enormous!
We’ve talked about leaders now lets talk briefly about hooks. There a lots of specialty hooks. All will do a fine job. Smaller hook are more appropriate for fishing fiddler crabs. Khale hooks while awkward looking are very suitable. My preference is a compromise hook not a specialty hook not a khale hook. A compromise hook can catch a little of everything from red fish and seatrout to black drum and sheepshead to whiting and small sharks. What is this wonderful hook? A standard hook that can catch a varity of fish is Eagle Claw’s 085 1/0. This is a useful little hook. While likely not the best in any one application likely one of the most useful.
Tides this week will be subsiding by Wednesday to less than 8 feet. Smaller tides could mean good fishing for red drum, black drum and sheepshead of course weather depending. When the winds kick up fish structure in protected water. If wind and seas lay could a good time to fish near shore structures. When the water is very clear fluorocarbon leaders can make a difference as well fishing lighter leaders and bleeding bait hooks. Best bet when buying bait this time is to call ahead to check if the shop is open and bait is available. Adams is always the last to close for the season so call ahead to save yourself a busted trip. Adams Bait Shop number is 912.898.1550. Larry of Larry’s Bait & Tackle has been open for during the winter has stocked a wide array of live baits. Best bet call ahead. Larry’s number is 912.272.7339.
Hope this of help! Good fishing!
Capt. Jack McGowan