Sunday, June 15, 2014

Folly River Sheepshead Fishing

This year the latest craze for yak anglers is fishing the Folly River for sheepshead. For one particular yak angler is Chris Slack this has become his passion. For this trip he sent me an invitation to participate in some sheepshead. In reality a few of these places are not true secret fishing holes. Sheepshead like structure for example bridge pilings, dock pilings, and old pilings; these structures should be as close to the harbor or ocean inlets to ensuring that the salinity of the water is fairly high in my opinion.

Sheepshead prey on blue crab, fiddler crabs, oysters, clams, shrimp, and fiddler crabs by using its impressive human like teeth to crush these heavily armored and shelled prey including scraping barnacles from rocks and pilings. On this trip we will be using fiddler crabs.  My setup for sheepshead is a Shimano Tescata 8 ft medium power with a extra fast action rod, the reel is an Okuma Convector CV 20 L reel with 30 lb power pro. My leader is about 4 ft long made from fluorocarbon with a dropper loop at the bottom with either an ounce or two ounce bank sinker. About a foot about the sinker is another loop that has a number 1 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook to place the fiddler crab. I’ll hook up a fiddler crab by inserting the hook behind the rear legs and pushing the hook through where it exits the center of the shell in the back of the crab. When doing this make sure that the shell doesn’t bust or crack anymore than necessary otherwise you will be providing an easy snack for these convicts.
My kayak for this trip will be the Jackson Cuda 14. The Cuda is great for this trip as we are planning to target the sheepshead close by, at high tide we were planning on paddling to a nice grass flats to search for some tailing redfish, and then move onto another sheepshead area with some concrete pilings near Sunset Cay Marina. Then a long paddle back to John F. Seignious Landing on Folly Island to complete the trip and end the day of fishing.
So the first area that we hit is a huge dock system that is known by the locals that will hold sheepshead. Chris & I paddled our Jackson Cudas to the pilings. I use a section of rope to throw around the pilings to anchor the Cuda next to the piling that I will be fishing. After about 15 to 20 minutes we would move from one piling to the next searching for the fish that is known as the convict. The sheepsheads were not being cooperative. Finally I got a hook set into something big, the dead giveaway was this fish had the Shimano Tescata rod bent over where the tip of the rod was near to the butt end. I’m not sure what happened but I lost the fish. At this time we decided to go check out the flat as it was pretty close to high tide.
We paddled to the far bank and worked the grass line and the oyster mounds along the way to the flats. To attack the flat Chris took a paddle up the creek to enter the flat from one end. For me I went up another creek to enter the flat at the opposite end. This flat had several openings that I refer to as small ponds amongst the dense grass flats. It is these ponds that the redfish lay in the grass edges waiting on the bait fish and shrimp. So the plan is to cast your lure or baited hook near these edges in the hopes to draw that redfish out to ambush your presentation. I was planning on using a 1/16 oz jig head with a Slayer Chicken on the Chain SST. As I worked my way to the middle in the Jackson Cuda, could see redfish moving about. I made my presentation to the redfish but no luck. As Chris and I crossed paths, I would cover the same water that he had fished with no luck. When this tactical approach to fishing this flat was done, we met at the folly river to paddle to Sunset Cay where there are some concrete pilings that also hold some sheepshead.
The tide at this time would be outgoing, this means for this area you have to be a little careful of how you position your kayak. Reasoning is that besides the pilings there are some shorter culverts that are upright. So there is the possibility that as the water level gets lower one of these culverts could be right under your kayak. If you plan on fishing this area I would highly recommend that you are paying attention as these appear during the outgoing tide or visit this area at low tide so that you have an idea of layout of the structure. Now that the warning message has been given, let’s get back to the fishing part of the story.
Switching back to my sheepshead setup and baiting up with a fiddler crab I started concentrating on a piling to see if there are any convicts feeding on the of the barnacles that are growing on the pilings. Chris had the first hookup. Instead of a sheepshead he landed a nice redfish. Shortly after he landed his spottail, I had a hookup. I managed to land a small redfish as well. Chris managed to land three more spottails at the pilings that we were working. So we decided to more to a different quadrant of the pilings.
We actually positioned ourselves under the wooded dock next to the concrete pilings. In this location we both hooked up nearly the same time. We both landed a small sheepshead. Hooking up another fiddler crab I started fishing hoping for another sheepshead that could be of legal size or bigger. Then I had something heavy at the end of the line. Setting the hook the battle happened.
This battle was a challenge for sure. There happened to be a crab pot line hanging off of the dock. This fish decided to use this line to his advantage. So I made the decision to release the rope from the piling so that I could get close to the crab pot rope. I was hoping that this tactic would allow me to land this fish instead of losing it. I managed to get the fish close to the surface and surprise the fish was not a sheepshead but a nice redfish. I managed to get the spottail into the net, removed the hook, untangled the fishing line from the crab pot rope, and measure the redfish. This redfish was just over 22 inches.

After this we decided it was time to head back to complete the day. All in all we only caught two small sheepshead and seven redfish while we were fishing the pilings. We both struck out on the flats when we were targeting the redfish in that habitant. This trip just really shows that when you go out to target a species it is still fishing. You never will know what you will catch till you have the fish to the surface.

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