How To Catch Sheepshead? (All You Need to Know)

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how to catch sheepshead fish

Sheepshead, also known as striped bass or striper, is popular among fishing enthusiasts, and with good reason. These fish have excellent flavor and can be found across the country, from Maine to Florida and everywhere.

But if you’re looking to find some on your own, it might seem like an impossible task! Luckily, I’ve got you covered with my definitive guide on how to catch sheepshead. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about these tasty fish, and be ready to start fishing!

The thought of catching sheepshead has always been really thrilling for me. But I knew every time that it was difficult and could be really exhausting. No matter how much I loved eating them, I never gathered the courage to catch them in real life.

It was because I thought they were too complicated for me. But once I went fishing with my friends, especially to catch sheepshead, I grasped that it was tricky, not complicated. And after a few more fishing trips, I got a hold of it and learned all the tips and tricks on how to catch sheepshead.


When And Where To Catch Sheepshead


As Sheepshead are saltwater fish from the Porgy family, you will find them in coastal Atlantic waters. They’re really abundant around the coasts of the United States of America and the Gulf of Mexico. From shores to reefs, they are present almost in all sea depths.

Image of some sheepshead fish in the water

Don’t know how to catch sheepshead? I will make things clear for you. Sheepshead is not a seasonal fish; you can find them all year round, so you don’t need to wait for a specific season to catch them.

To find them, search for them near formations as they like to hide near rocky coasts, docks, jetties, reefs, and shores.

This is a big reason why people prefer catching sheepsheads from docks instead of going into the middle of deep waters or rivers. Sheepsheads don’t prefer to swim in strong currents, so look for them in calmer waters.


Why Does Sheepshead Love To Be Around Docks?


I always thought about how to catch Sheepshead on jetties or docks. As they can have crossbeams, won’t it be difficult for the fish to swim there? Or for people to catch fish near them?

Let me tell you how to catch Sheepshead from docks and docks; I learned these things. If you want to catch a lot of sheepsheads, the best place would be the old docks. The older the docks are, the more crabs and lobsters would live around them.

Have you noticed the shiny white human-like teeth sheepsheads have? They’re not only for decoration. They can munch up all the crustaceans with them. And where do most of the crustaceans live? Yes, near the docks and the jetties.

Although the crossbeams may create difficulties, you will find your sheepshead near them. So be extra careful while catching fish near docks.


Technique For Pier Fishing For Sheepshead


How to catch sheepshead off a pier? Pier fishing for Sheepshead can be tricky for many, but it is not hard. Here are some techniques you must keep in mind.

You may think that a sheepshead took your bait on a vertical drop when you feel that first pull, but that is not true. Sheepsheads are clever, and you will need a lot of patience and your sixth sense working if you want to catch them. Don’t pull right away; otherwise, you will just lose the bait.

catching sheepshead fish

For a better grip, rest your arm against the pier’s railing and keep your body parallel to it. It will be better to hold your rod at a 45-degree angle with your other hand. The pier allows you to lean; this might not be a comfortable position, but trust me, it is practical to catch sheepshead.

As you feel the second ting, you will be able to catch your sheepshead successfully. That is how to catch a sheepshead from a pier.


Best Baits For Sheepshead


It is undeniable that the ordinary baits won’t work for sheepshead because of their pearly solid set of teeth. The ideal bait to use for Sheepshead is, no doubt, fiddler crabs. You can easily set them on the hook too.

fiddler crabs

Many other options are available if you don’t know how to catch fiddler crabs in winter. I won’t judge you if you cannot find fiddler crabs in winter because they are hard to find in chilly seasons.

You can also use oysters, small shrimps, or sand fleas as baits. Oysters are great too, but getting them fixed on the hook is tough. Some anglers even admit that in old times, they used pantyhose to securely tie down the oysters on the hooks.

In short, sheepshead love crustaceans, but using them as baits is very hard.


Best Rigs To Catch Sheepshead


Since sheepsheads have well-formed human-like mouths, how do you catch sheepshead? Everyone knows circular hooks work well for almost all the fish if I talk about rigs. But they don’t work well with sheepshead because of the molars sheepshead has.

Their mouths are structured in such a way that they require small hooks and short rigs. If you ask me how to catch sheepshead fish smoothly, I would tell you to use a short Carolina Rig. Carolina rig is a slip lead rig; for sheepshead, a 12-18 inches rig is required with a J hook.

Always use small hooks in sizes 1, 2, or 4. Long leaders aren’t recommended because sheepshead bite so gently that you won’t even be able to feel them. And they will just steal the bait; after all, they’re called bait thieves for a reason.


What Tackles Work Best For Sheepshead


Whenever you are selecting a tackle to catch sheepshead, you must know these points. The fishing tackle that would work best for sheepshead should be a 7-foot medium action rod with a limber tip. Sheepshead only pulls hard with their teeth and bite very lightly, which is why a soft tip is needed.

image of a medium action fishing rod

It would be best if you matched your rod with a 2500 series actual spool with a 20-pound braided line for the best results. You can also use mono lines if you wish, but I like the braided ones better. The braided lines are sensitive to the movements sheepshead makes so that you can keep a close eye.


Techniques On How To Catch Sheepshead


Let me revise the techniques for you to summarize this guide on how to catch sheepshead.

Sheepsheads are bait thieves and sneaky to catch; you can find them in 6 to 15 feet of water. Catch them by suspending your bait in the water. There are many options you can use as bait, live or artificial. I mostly found them near structures where most crustaceans live, like docks, rocky shores, or reefs.

If you don’t know how to catch sheepshead, then let me tell you that they are tough to catch. You cannot use other fishing techniques for sheepshead because they differ entirely. It is mainly because of their human-like set of teeth.

Showing how to catch sheepshead

So, how do you catch sheepshead?

Well, don’t get fooled by their gigantic-looking teeth. While their molars appear extraordinary, you won’t need big hooks or rigs to catch them. Understand that they have small mouths, so you need to choose a small hook so they will take the bait.

Keep your fishing line tight, don’t pull it right away on the very first movements you feel, and let the sheepshead take the bait. Look for them where there are low currents as they like to swim there. Other than that, they like to swim with much other fish.

If you feel like you cannot catch more sheepshead after you’ve caught one, the best idea would be to change your spot. The first catch would probably have caused chaos between another sheepshead.


10 Sheepshead Fishing Tips & Tricks


Wanted to know how to catch sheepshead? I have got you covered.

  1. Using live baits is the best option; use artificial ones only if the live ones aren’t available. You can use sand fleas, oysters, fiddler crabs, or shrimps.
  2. Sight your sheepshead in clear waters beforehand. Catching them can be tricky if you are unsure if they are even present in the water.
  3. As they have smaller mouths, smaller baits and hooks work better than others.
  4. The leader should be kept short. Long leaders have low sensitivity; if you want to feel an actual sheepshead bite on bait, use short leaders.
  5. Mono fishing lines don’t provide a good fishing experience. Switch to braided lines, as they have high sensitivity.
  6. Sheepshead love munching on barnacles. Get a shovel to loosen off some barnacle for them. It can act as good bait.
  7. Use a small hook that gets hidden inside your bait. Don’t let the fish get suspicious.
  8. You will find them near structures, rocks, and places so stick near them.
  9. Sheepshead doesn’t like high currents but likes to eat in moving waters. Choose an area with moderate currents. That is the place where you will find them.
  10. You can listen to sheepshead. Yes, I am not kidding; they can be heard chewing with their extraordinary molars. You can locate them this way by listening to them!

Final Verdict:

Sheepsheads are really fascinating and unique because of their appearance and their behavior. They are definitely not easy to catch, as catching them requires a lot of mental tricks and labor. However, I am pretty sure they are worth all the effort.

Through this comprehensive guide on how to catch sheepshead, I am confident that now, you won’t be confused regarding sheepshead fishing. I hope that this piece of writing will make your next fishing trip fruitful.

Enjoy your next trip, and keep these tips in mind regarding these bait thieves.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – How do you attract sheepshead?

Sheepshead love to snack on crustaceans or insects that will provide them with good crunches. So you can attract them with baits like fiddler crabs, shrimps, oysters, and sand fleas. It would be best if you used frozen baits so they can easily stick to the hooks.

#2 – What is the best month to catch sheepshead?

Although you can find sheepshead all year round, the best time to catch them is from December to April. Sheepshead gathers around the shores, piers, jetties, and docks during colder months, so it is the right time.

#3 – Can you catch sheepshead on lures?

Yes, you can catch sheepshead on lures. Lures help you catch sheepshead, especially when they are in deep waters. Some baits that work with lures are fiddler crabs, but if you are out of them, you can go for artificial baits too.

#4 – Do sheepshead like sand fleas?

Yes, sheepshead like sand fleas, and they make excellent baits. Not only sheepsheads but sand fleas are also lovable and attractive bait for most saltwater fish species. They are easy to find and install to your rigs or hooks and very simple.

#5 – Can you use circle hooks for sheepshead?

Sheepsheads are very tricky to catch with almost any hook you use. Yes, you can use circular hooks for catching sheepshead, but you will have to keep all the tips and tricks on how to catch sheepshead in mind.

#6 – How to catch sheepshead with shrimp?

Want to know how to catch sheepshead with shrimp? Sheepshead loves shrimps. To catch sheepshead with shrimp, you must ensure that your shrimp is completely frozen, not thawed. Otherwise, it will start to lose its structure, making it very hard for the shrimp to stay intact on the hook.

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