Goat Herding Sheepshead

Dec 9, 2017Sheepshead0 comments

Published in Fly Fishing Forecast of The Anglers Magazine

By now, you all have probably caught so many redfish that your arms are sore and you are looking for more of a challenge. Well you’re in luck! This month I’m going to give you some tips on how to catch the elusive Sheepshead. AKA Cajun Permit because of their frustrating similarity of chasing a fly down only to turn it’s nose up at it and give you the middle fin. I know most of you don’t go out targeting sheepshead, but they are always worth a cast or two. The first step is the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared! I like to always have a rod rigged for sheepshead in the gunnel. And the differences between my redfish set up and sheepshead setup are subtle but necessary.

My sheepy rod will have a 10 foot 12 pound leader. Lighter the better, but those teeth are designed for eating barnacles so mono filament is a piece of cake for them to gnaw through. I keep the most realistic crab fly I can find tied to the end. I’ve had pretty good luck with a #2 olive merkin crab with very little flash.

The goats can be found in abundance on the inside of the barrier islands or in the marsh near oyster piles and derelict piers. The water is gin clear this time of year which is great because you can spot the fish a mile away, but is bad because they can spot you 2 miles away. Now to the hard part. Stealth is going to be key here. You are only going to get one shot. It is best to keep your backcast low and to a minimum. Cast a few feet away from the fish as it will spook with your typical redfish presentation. When the crab hits the water, many times the fish will hear the fly hit and rush towards it. If not, pick up and re-position. When the fish comes to inspect, slow twitches should keep him interested. You will see the fish tail up on the fly several times, but just keep slow, small strips until you feel the pressure. This technique will work one out of every 100 times. The state record Sheepshead, weighing 7 lbs 12 oz was caught off my skiff by Matt Carpenter and the record was held for 12 years! Matt attributes his success to his pink lucky rabbit’s foot that he keeps in his voodoo love amulet he wears around his neck and his lucky sock that he hasn’t washed since 1988 when Ole Miss beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa 22-12 while he was wearing said sock. Good Luck out there (you’re gonna need it) and I hope to see you on the water.


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