Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The Jackson Cruise, Pilings, and Sheepshead
One day after work I decided that I would go sheepshead fishing on the Folly River. So instead of taking my favorite fishing platform the Green Hornet Jackson Big Rig I would load up Marian’s Cruise 12 and use that Platform for a short paddle to the known pilings that hold sheepshead. The Cruise is an ideal kayak for a short trip like this when the days are getting shorter. The Cruise also forces me to take a minimalistic approach to the gear to take on this fishing trip. On this trip I brought my favorite sheepshead rod, a small tackle tray that had spare hooks and sinkers, a Grappler Anchor, and a cooler to keep the sheepshead in.
The area that I was to target the sheepshead also makes the Cruise an ideal kayak as the habitant that the sheepshead call home is a series of dock pilings coated with barnacles. The Cruise is maneuverable for me to move from piling to piling under a dock system. Other habitants that you might find the Sheepshead are bridge pilings, rocky areas, and tall oyster beds. Any of these areas will be great provided if there are barnacles or small shellfish. Besides the barnacles and other shellfish options for the dietary needs of the Sheepshead, they also enjoy shrimp and fiddler crabs. On this trip my choice of bait will be the fiddler crab.
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 the sheepshead.
There are several methods that you can use to anchor to the pilings. One method is to use a piece of rope; tie one end to your kayak then throw the rope around the piling and tie to your kayak. Another method is to drop your anchor to the bottom. The issue with dropping the anchor you is creating an opportunity for that fish to wrap your fishing line around the anchor rope. What I prefer to use is the grappler anchor. The grappler anchor is made from aluminum with six fingers. These fingers can be bent in different patterns for your anchoring needs. This makes the grappler anchor ideal to anchor to cross members on the pilings. This way the anchor line and anchor are above the water level thus removing a hazard that the fish can use to their advantage.
Now that I have described why I chose the Jackson Cruise for this trip, along with the habitant of the sheepshead, and my fishing setup for the sheepshead let me explain my technique. Sheepshead have a nickname from the anglers that target this hard fighting fish. The nickname that anglers use to describe the sheepshead is “convict”. There are two reasons for this. One the sheepshead has a black and white stripe pattern on their body. Sort of makes them look like the old days when people in prison had to wear black and white stripe uniforms. Of course this was before the bright orange uniforms that people wear in prison. I’m not too sure if this is the case for this fish as a young black drum are also striped and are sometimes confused with the sheepshead except does not have those human type of teeth.
I like to think the reason the sheepshead are called convicts is because they are the master of stealing your bait. How can the sheepshead steal the bait without you knowing about it? Well the sheepshead will suck in the bait and blow it out. This allows the external skeleton of the fiddler crab to crack. Then they will suck the cracked fiddler crab back into their mouth to retrieve the insides of the crab. Then the convict will blow out the remainder. Then when you check your hook the bait is gone. The sheepshead is very stealthy about taking the bait. This is why I feel the sheepshead is titled the convict of fish.
I prefer to fish for the sheepshead at low tide. This allows me to scrap the pilings to deposit the barnacles to the bottom. Chumming like this will draw these fish into your area. You might even notice the odor from the barnacles. It is this odor that will being the school of sheepshead to feast on those barnacles and your presentation of that fiddler crab.
My techniques to feel this stealthy bite; I will slowly raise the rod tip and few inches or maybe a foot and slowly lower the rod back to the original position. Sometime during the process of occasionally slowly raising and lowering the rod you just might feel some extra weight. This extra weight could be a snag or your hook is in the mouth of a convict. My reaction when I feel this extra weight is to set the hook hard to bury the barb of the hook into the toothy mouth of the sheepshead. If your rod tip is bent to the butt of the rod you will have a nice sheepshead fight going on. Now you have to ensure that the convict does not escape by wrapping the line around the pilings to create a break off. Eventually you will get that monster into your kayak and then into your cooler.
But what if the extra weight is a snag? Well you might have lost some terminal tackle and have to re-rig. Then continue the process to detect that stealthy convict. Eventually you will get a hook into one of these convicts.
I hope that this brief description of how I target the convict and the process will put some nice fillets on your dinner plate or wear out your arms just battling and releasing the sheepshead.