The Tampa Bay Times

Capt. Brent Gaskill

        I’m beginning to catch sheepshead around the southern tip of Pinellas County.  This indicates that they have begun their push down the bay making their way toward the passes to the gulf.  Sheepshead are generally sought during the winter months as they don’t seem to mind the colder water temperatures and can provide good action when little else is biting.  Their migration to the gulf is part of their spawning ritual that actually reaches its peak in the early spring.  Sheepshead are very structure oriented fish and feed solely on crustaceans.  Shrimp are one of the easiest baits to use but fiddler crabs will outperform the shrimp every time.  Barnacles, oysters, clams, or tubeworms also make great baits but require more effort to obtain.  When targeting sheepshead I use a short stout live bait hook that will stand up to their strong jaws and shell crushing teeth.  Sheepshead are difficult to clean because of their thick bone structure and sharp spines, but their fillets are worth it.  Many of the old Florida Crackers will tell you that the sweet meat of a sheapshead is preferred over grouper.