With cold air and water temperatures, nothing is hot when it comes it fishing. An eight-year recovery on snook erased by water temperatures in the 50s. January has not been kind so far. There’s basically one solid option in times like these: sheepshead. As an “all lure, all the time” kind of guy, I don’t do much sheepshead fishing, but I used to. Big sheepshead put up a good fight and are one of the best fish for eating that we have in our waters. I prefer a stout rod for setting the hook, but basically this is light-tackle fun. Their mouths are hard with rows of human-like teeth so using good hooks and a rod with some muscle make sheepshead fishing more successful. Go with 20-pound leader and a size 2 hook. Use the minimum amount of weight possible to get your bait down to where the fish are. Sheepshead feed on barnacles so you want to place your bait next to pilings, rocks or whatever structure where you’re fishing for them. Your weight can be split shots most of the time unless you’re in heavy current. Bait choices are simple. Live shrimp are easy to buy. Fiddler crabs are my No. 2. Sand fleas are a good option. Blood worms are something you can utilize if you know where to find them. This is tight-line fishing. With fiddler crabs and blood worms, set the hook the moment you feel a strike. With shrimp it’s more of a guessing game: Does the fish have the hook in its mouth? Use caution handling sheepshead. They have a long row of sharp spines on top. Cooking tip: Dip in egg, dip in flour, throw in hot oil.
Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at strikethreekayakfishing.com and (727) 692-6345.