Spring time means sheepshead time for many anglers in the Pensacola area. Often plentiful, fairly easy to catch, and great table fare make them an excellent target for inshore fisherman from the late winter through the middle of April.
Like many species, sheepshead move from the upper bays toward the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. They will make stops on structure along the way to the Gulf. Rock piles, bridges and any other submerged structure in deeper water can make for a great hangout spot for sheepshead.
Starting in December or early January anglers will start to catch sheepshead on the Pensacola Bay Bridge, Garcon Point Bridge, Theo Baars Bridge as well as Bob Sikes Bridge. When we get into late February and March there should be good numbers of sheepshead in Pensacola Pass.
The rock jetties on the Fort McRae side of the pass are great places to find sheepshead. At some point in March the sheepshead will get in the deep water of the pass and hang around the submerged rocks in 50-70 feet of water.
A good rod and reel set up is a 6 1/2- 7 foot rod and 2500-4000 sized spinning reel. Many anglers spool their reels up with braided fishing line because it allows you to feel the light bite, but its not a must.
A Carolina rig or slip lead rig is used by most anglers when targeting sheepshead. Leader length is usually 12-18 inches and a fluorocarbon leader material can be beneficial, 10-20lb leader works the best.
The amount of weight will be determined by the area you’re fishing. When fishing bridges and rock piles a 1/4-3/4 ounce weight is typically plenty. When fishing deeper water a weight up to 3 ounces is often used.
Hook style is really a personal preference but J hooks and circle hooks can both be used. Size is a little more important, you want to use a pretty small hook because sheepshead have small mouths compared to their size. The most popular sizes are #4, #2, and #1.
Sheepshead feed on a variety of small crustaceans and shellfish. Shrimp are probably the most used bait with fiddler crabs coming in second. Other live baits to try are sand fleas, oysters and ghost shrimp.
The bag limit for sheepshead is 8 fish per angler per day with a minimum length of 12 inches measured to the tip of the tail. During the month of March there is a vessel trip limit of 50 fish per vessel.