Mangrove snapper get lots of cred for their speedy strikes, but sheepshead have an impressively swift snap of their own. Named for the pronounced incisors they use to crush the shells of barnacles, crabs and various shellfish, ‘heads, as they’re known, often feed with a one-two punch. First bite crushes, second bite extracts the meat.
For anglers, that means barely a split second of reaction time and then the moment/opportunity is gone. The tongue-in-cheek rule of thumb tells us to set the hook a half second before a sheepshead bites, lest your opponent relieves your hook of that shrimp, fiddle crab or strip of clam or oyster.
No doubt, many a slow-handed angler has gone home thoroughly frustrated with an empty bait bucket and an empty cooler after struggling to match the sheepshead’s bite speed. Avoid this scenario with a few key tips:
- Stick It to ‘Em – Super sharp light wire hooks are essential for quickly snaring the sneaky sheepshead.
- Pulling Power – Use braided line and medium-heavy rods so you can quickly come tight and stay tight.
- Low Vis – Fluorocarbon leader benefits the sheepshead angler with stealthy appearance, abrasion resistance and just enough give to balance the braid’s unyielding strength and prevent pulled hooks.
A couple more points for the mission:
- Find the Big Ones – Target old docks with lots of sea growth and rundown structures with planks, and other pieces of structure in the water are ideal, as the big ‘heads seem to realize they’re more protected in such dilapidated digs.
- Sharp Stuff – Watch out for those dorsal spines, they’ll give you a memorable poke in the palm.
- Enjoy Dinner – Fried, baked or pan seared, the sheepshead’s mild, white filets will make all the effort worthwhile.