We've been greeted with several Noreasters this month. The weather has officially cooled off enough to trigger the Sheepshead migration inshore. There have been a number of reports coming in of solid catches in Mayport and in Nassau Sound this week.
Every October, generally around the 3rd week, large waves of Sheepshead schools begin appearing in the inlets of Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine. The October and November waves will mostly hold smaller fish from 1 to 4 pounds. Though they lack size at this time, they more than make up for it by sheer numbers. By December, the action tends to hit a platue. I don't know if this is caused by lower temperatures at this time or if there is a large gap in the run, but the Sheepshead activity December through the earlier part of January hits somewhat of a slump. You'll still catch them, however the fishing can be difficult. Once late January arrives, the Sheepshead spawn begins. Late January on through April is primetime for large, trophy Sheepshead. 10+ pound fish are caught during this time every year. Often times fish as large as 14 pounds are caught.
Right now we're in the early half of the Fall run. You'll find plenty of decent keeper Sheepshead at the Big Jetties, Little Jetties Park, and surrounding areas. Navigation markers and docks also produce plenty of action. Just remember, not all docks are the same in terms of holding Sheepshead. A good way to tell a productive dock from a dead one is by looking over the pilings at lower tides. If the pilings have little to no Barnacle or Oyster growth on them, keep looking till you find one that does. Another thing to consider is water depth. Shallow docks with less than 4 feet of water will either hold juvenile Sheepshead or none at all. Either way, this should be avoided. Many docks, especially in Mayport and Ft. Caroline areas, will have riprap on the bottom near or around them. Many home owners throw construction debris such as concrete blocks off their docks to create habitat for fishing. This isnt necessarily for the rest of us however, that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of it. After years of Flounder fishing in the area, I've found a number of good riprap piles around docks. This kind of debris is more common than you might think. Some docks also contain riprap for the purpose of preventing bottom errosion around the pilings. This is especially common around aids to navigation. Most AID's will have rocks piled around the base of their pilings. Just because you only see 2 or often times, one piling, don't rule it out. The spot may not look like much at the surface but the bottom could have several square yards of rocky structure surrounding it. Many of them do.
There are a number of baits that will catch Sheepshead. The most common is the Fiddler Crab, however, Osters, live Shrimp, Clams, and Muscles will also catch Sheepshead.
Rigging for Sheepshead is simple. The two most common rigs for targeting Sheepshead are the Carolina Rig, and Sheepshead Jig. For deeper water with heavy current, the Carolina Rig is the ticket. You'll use as much weight as needed to hold near bottom. As for the hook, I prefer either a 1/0 Owner Mosquito Hook or a 1/0 Owner Cutting Point hook. During the spawn months, Ill switch to 2/0 sizes for the larger Sheepshead. 1/0 will still work but you'll miss a lot of hook sets.
As for Sheepshead jigs, there are a number of applications that call for them. Fishing behind tide breaks such as pilings and rocks where current is bearable is good. You can also pitch them up against the base of jetty rocks and work them back towards the boat. Both rigs work well and will produce good numbers once mastered.
Jacksonville Fishing charters. Jacksonville charter fishing. Guide fishing Jacksonville. Fishing guides Jacksonville. Charter fishing Jacksonville. Jacksonville Sport Fishing. Sport Fishing Jacksonville.