Sheepshead set to take center stage

Sheepshead will move up in angler interest along this coast from now until spring. Inshore fishermen can almost pick their sheepshead spots by remembering where they caught mangrove snapper during sweat months.

The convict-striped members of the porgy clan tend to hover over and around hard bottom or any vertical structure where barnacles, oysters or other marine growths attach themselves. And that is exactly the same spots where the little snapper are found in the warmer parts of the year.

I am convinced there are sheepshead that live out their lives in and among the rubble of the Skyway Reef alongside the pier of the same name without ever encountering a baited hook. And that is not so much because of lack of fishing pressure along the reef but attributed to the quanity of material there. It is inevitable good portions will go unfished.

I haven’t had my own boat capable of fishing the open bay in winter for years but have long suspected by concentrating on fishing right beneath the pier span, your offering would be seen by fish that may not venture out to the pier or boat anglers often.

And over the years, some of the biggest sheepies in Tampa Bay come from the Skyway.

• I heard a guy bad-mouthing the eating quality of sheepshead a few days ago. Boy, was he off the mark. A 4- or 5-pound sheepshead offers some of the most delicate-tasting, firm filets to be found in fishdom. Keep in mind a huge percentage of this species’ menu consists of crustaceans of some sort. How bad can a creature taste if it dines on shrimp, crabs and crawfish most of the time?