It’s time for sheepshead
Sheephead await. Ignored most of the year, when water temperatures drop like they have now, the convict fish are happy and eating. They also are in their spawn, which means now is the time to catch some of the biggest fish of the year.
We’ve been using shrimp, fiddler crabs and barnacles for bait. Small, stout hooks and as little weight as possible is used, depending on the current.
Structure is where you will find sheepshead. The docks, bridge pilings, rock piles and oyster bars of Tampa Bay are holding fish now. The best bite is going to be around the beginning and end of the tides.
It takes quick reactions to hook sheepshead, so anglers have to keep a tight line and set the hook fast once the bite is felt. Sheepshead are notorious bait thieves, but within a few minutes I have even inexperienced anglers hooking up regularly.
Sheepshead have a face only a mother could love, and a set of teeth that look more like the choppers in a goat or horse than a fish. They are good eating, but a little tricky to fillet compared to other fish.