Winter Sheepshead: The Frenzy Is Now

Some of the season's hottest fishing is happening right now

winter sheepshead fishing
The winter fishing for sheepshead can be incredible.David A. Brown

Throughout the Gulf of Mexico and much of the Atlantic coast, winter through early spring finds huge numbers of sheepshead gathered for a pre-spawn feeding fest. Known as convict fish for their black-and-white coloration, sheepshead are always present in the coastal/inshore zone, but this time of year finds them highly sociable — and highly aggressive.

A few tips for taking advantage of this tremendous seasonal opportunity.

AVOID THE CROWDS

Swap the more obvious bridges, piers and docks for hidden rock piles and wrecks that you have to find with your bottom machine and you’ll stand a better chance of locating unpressured fish that won’t recognize your hook model.

In addition to such hard-bottom sites, Alabama angler Marcus Kennedy says pre-spawn sheepshead also gather around the deeper rigs inside Mobile Bay, as well as the nearshore platforms. These fish add a welcome dose of sport and food fish when red snapper, triggerfish and grouper seasons are closed.

DIG DEEPER

Tampa Bay sheepshead expert, Capt. Rick Franco, hunts in deeper water for the big fish. The biggest sheepshead, he says, are more likely to claim the deeper spots to limit their accessibility.

PICK YOUR DAYS

Windy conditions not only limit your ability to hold over those isolated spots, but the turbulence stirs up bottom sediment, limits visibility and decreases the likelihood of a big, picky sheepshead from spotting your bait.