Having fished for and written about Sheepshead for a while now, I kinda felt like I knew all there was to know. Today was one of those days though where even a self proclaimed
Expert like me finds out there is always something new to learn.
I started my day fairly early. I was in the taco line at the local Stripes by 8 am and sucking up ghost shrimp on Whitecap beach by 8:30. The tide was super low. I got lots
of good photos of ghost shrim burrows and of the wide open beach created by the low tide.
Every single time I'm catching ghost shrimp I ponder the TPWD 20 shrimp per day limit. I understand the need to protect a resource, and I'm always going to follow the rule. I admit
though that today, seeing the thousands of burrows exposed by the low tide, I questioned the need for a limit at all. 20 ghost shrimp don't go very far when the sheepshead are
really biting. I've only been able to catch a 5 fish limit one time with just 20 ghost shrimp. What I usually do is collect 20 of the biggest ones I can get. That way I can break
them in half to double the number of baits I have to fish. In reality, I hardly ever cut 'em in half though. Having a big whole shrimp on my hook always makes me feel like I'm going to
catch a bigger fish. I reasoned that today, with the low tide, I'd be able to get a few sea anemones off the rocks if I ran out of shrimp. Another thing I did was focus on those burrows
that were farthest from the beach. I figured that I could only pick on these guys in the lowest of low tides like today. I'll leave the ones higher up the beach for those more marginal
days when the tide is barely low enough to get any at all. Needless to say it didn't take long to get my 20.
Today I fished the south packery channel jetty. My jetty cart had a flat tire this morning, so I was forced to schlepp all of my gear
by hand to the end of the jetty. I hate schlepping. To make the hike more manageable I pared my gear down to just 2 poles, a 5 gallon bucket with a bait bucket and aerator inside, and
the LGB. I posted up on the channel side about a dozen rocks from the end. To me sheepshead fishing is all about knowing spots that are likely to hold fish, and that allow me to get
a rig back when bottom fishing. The spot I chose has fit the bill in the past.
Things started out pretty well. My first bait got hit quickly and I hooked what looked like a keeper sheepshead. I couldn't get very close to the water's edge because a lot of that super
slippery brown algae has formed on the rocks close to the water. Fishing from high up on the jetty I was able to get the fish up on the first layer of rocks, only to see it washed over
and into a slot between 2 rocks. I tried my best to coax it out, but the hook eventually pulled. With my next 8 or 10 baits I hooked 2 more sheepshead and lost them just like the first
one. I also hung up and broke off several times.
By now I was already an hour into fishing, had used half my bait, and had nothing in the bucket to show for it. I'd passed one of the regular Winter Texans on my way out who fishes
sheepshead every year. He was sitting in a chair on some dry flat rocks right at the edge of the channel near the halfway point on the jetty. I didn't know if he was catching any fish or
not. I do know that landing fish where he was fishing would be a whole lot easier than what I was going through. I re-schlepped my gear to a spot about 30 yards away from him and got one
of my last few ghost shrimp out on bottom tight to the rocks. The bite was immediate. Problem was, it was piggy perch. I lost several more baits before finally landing one of the little
With my bait mostly gone, I decided to poke around the rocks to try and find some anemones. With the tide so low, I had no trouble finding them. Most were high and dry and sucked up into
little balls, waiting for the water to return. While prying what I thought was an anemone of the rock, I uncovered a weird looking little crab. Small crabs are excellent sheepshead bait
so I dropped him in my bucket. I found several more and decided to try and fish with them instead of anemones. Just as I was about to call it good and get back to fishing, a couple of kids
walked up and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was catching bait and showed them the crabs. They in turn showed me a small jar filled with bright orange little shrimp. They said
that they were everywhere between the rocks on the surf side.
I moved over to the other side of the rocks, and sure enough there were little pockets left dry by the low tide that were filled with the small shrimp. I scooped them up by the handfull
and put them in the bucket with the crabs. The shrimp were all very small, but I reasoned that If they didn't work for bait I could just put them back. Now that I was refortified with bait
I went back to the same spot I'd been fishing earlier on the channel side near the end of the rocks.
I tried one of the crabs first. It got bit right away but I didn't hook up. I went through a couple more, felt a few light bites, and eventually hung up and had to break off. When I re-
rigged I put on a #1 J-hook and a 1 oz bank sinker, the classic small bottom rig. I was able to thread the small shrimp on the hook going in at the tail and poking the point out through
the legs. I felt silly fishing such a small bait, but no one was paying attention. That first little shrimp never even made it to the bottom. It got thumped on the drop, and my line
immediately started moving to the side. I set the hook and felt the weight of a solid fish.
The sun had dried the slippery stuff up enough now that I was able to inch a little closer to the edge. This time, I also let the fish play out a bit before trying to slide it up on the rocks.
A moment later I had my first keeper on the top of the jetty next to the bucket. After confirming it was legal size with my tape measure, in the bucket it went. It was 17" long and looked
really fat and healthy. I got another shrimp out and started a really good run of sheepshead.
I got to 4 fish quickly, and then started catching a bunch of really small ones, some as small as 8" long. Then the bite really slowed down. After about a 10 minute stretch without a
single bite, I reeled in to re-bait. The shrimp that remained were all super small, too
small to fish with. I grabbed a handfull, squeezed the juice out of them, and tossed them into the spot where I'd been fishing. I did this a second time, being careful to keep a few of the
biggest that remained. After chumming the spot, I got one of my last little shrimp on a hook and tossed it out. The bite was immediate on the drop. This time the fish never
stopped, simultaneously tightening my line and bending my rod. After letting it play out I used an incoming wave to surf it out of the water and up on the rocks at my feet. This fish
topped my limit, and was the biggest of the day at exactly 18".
As I packed my gear for the schlepp back, I noticed that one lone ghost shrimp still remained in my bait bucket. I dumped her out along with all the water and sand from my bait bucket. Who
says you can't catch a limit of sheepshead with only 20 ghost shrimp!
Edited by Shoreboundangler (01/27/18 12:44 AM)