On an early winter’s day across the Lowcountry coast, the daily rise and fall of the tide may be lost on most people, but for Capt. Tucker Blythe of Grey Ghost Charters out of Charleston, it’s the last shot at inshore sheepshead staging to make their annual migration to offshore reefs and wrecks to spawn. Blythe targets winter sheepshead around the docks and pilings that line the creeks behind many of the barrier islands that surround Charleston.
He uses medium-action tackle combined with a short, ¾-ounce Carolina rig, and he prefers to fish older docks and pilings; he believes the older pilings offer sheepshead with a better choice of crustaceans on which to feed. Using live fiddler crabs as bait, Blythe moors his boat alongside the pilings and presents the Carolina rig vertically, holding the bait just off the bottom.
Hooking a fiddler crab is a matter of choice. Blythe prefers to impale the bait on a 1/0 hook, coming in from the side of the bait so the crab remains alive on the hook and leaving the hook exposed so he has as much advantage as possible on the light biting fish.
“Sheepshead are notorious for stealing bait,” said Blythe (843-670-8629). “They have almost human-like teeth, so they will crunch your bait off the hook without you even knowing it.”
Blythe prefers a low, incoming tide when he’s fishing boat docks and pilings. He offers that higher tides tends to spread the fish out more around both docks and the surrounding riprapped banks that are common to most of the barrier island creeks. Low tide tends to pull the fish away from the surrounding areas and concentrate them under the deeper parts of the boat docks and pilings, making them easier to locate and catch.
“Don’t be concerned about catching small fish once you locate a concentration of sheepshead under a boat dock,” said Blythe. “Many times, the smaller fish will simply get to the bait first, and you may need to weed through some of the smaller fish before the larger, more wary sheepshead begin to bite.”
For more information on getting in on the boat dock saltwater panfish action around the Lowcountry of Charleston, watch the attached video of Blythe as he puts the bite on early winter sheepshead.