CATCHING CROOKS – Sheepshead, Flounder, Red Fish and Trout

It's October again and as always, we're locking down the Convicts. The transition from late October to November is always prime time Sheepshead fishing. The largest concentration of fish come through Mayport Inlet every year at this time. They quickly disperse throughout the river, the ICW, and neighboring estuaries. The best fishing tends to be at the tips of the Mayport Inlet Jetties. The Inlet acts as a bottle neck, providing the first line of shelter and opportunity to forage once the fish arrive in the St. Johns River.

The fishing can be intense with all the newly arriving Sheepshead schools. Most of which likely hadn't fed in days. I find the best tide during this time to be the beginning and end of the incoming tide. The water is much cleaner during the incoming tide and the fish tend to be more active as well. The only major down side to targeting the Sheepshead in the Fall is the abundance of pesky Blennies in the rocks. These little fish are aggressive feeders and will drive you clear up a wall at times. You can expect to blow through a lot of Fiddlers so come prepared. I wont head out with any less than 1.5 quarts of Fiddlers. I would rather have too many than not enough, and believe me, on a good day, 2-3 guys will chew through that many Fiddlers in a morning. Easily.....

The rigging I prefer when targeting Sheepshead is simple enough, a Carolina Rig with a 1-1.5oz egg weight. Or as many will tell you, as light of a weight as you can get away with. Most of the time, that is 1-1.5oz. The hooks I prefer are Owner, Mosquito Hooks in either 1/0 or 2/0. Many anglers, especially the old school salts, prefer using Kayle Hooks in the same size range. I don't know that any one is any better than the other, I think it all boils down to preference. They both work.

Fishing the Carolina Rig is simple in itself, albeit, takes a little time getting used to if you're new. Essentially, you're boat should be directly above the structure you intend to fish. You want to avoid casting. Casting a Carolina Rig into rocks is a snag waiting to happen. Instead, position the boat above the rocks, drop the rig straight down until you feel the egg weight bump the rocks below. Once you're there, suspend the bait a few inches, up to a foot above the rocks. This is important for three reasons, 1) suspending the bait reduces snagging, 2) suspending the bait puts it where the Sheesphead can see it and 3) perhaps the most important reason, when a Sheepshead eats a suspended bait, you'll notice a sensation of weight or a thumping. These guys won't hammer the bait like a Red Fish or Trout. They'll sit stationary and eat the crab right off your hook. You'll usually notice what almost feels as if your rig is rubbing the side of a rock. Once you notice this happening, slowly lift the rig and get ready to set the hook. Once hooked up, fight these guys on a loose drag. Too tight and you'll easily pull a hook. Have a landing net handy and make sure whoever is netting the fish is on top of the job. These guys will come unglued right at the boat a LOT of the time.

Good luck guys. Be safe and happy hunting....

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