Anglers looking for some hot cold-weather action will find it in the lowcountry at the Mt. Pleasant Pier on Harry Hallman Blvd under the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The hottest bite right now is for sheepshead, and these sneaky fish are here in numbers and in sizes.
Jerry Grenier is a seasoned veteran of fishing this pier, and he said winter is always good for sheepshead, and that this year is no exception, even though the cold weather arrived a little later than normal.
“There are plenty of them in the harbor and around the pier right now and they’ll stay in throughout the winter. There are a lot of small ones, but we definitely have some bigger fish too. In January and February, we catch some sheepshead in the 8- to 10-pound range, and we have caught one or two over 12-pounds this time of year,” he said.
Many anglers are surprised when they see how light his gear is for battling with these fish around the pier’s pilings, but he’s got several double-digit sheepshead to his credit, and has coached many other anglers to big sheepshead catches while using the same type gear.
“My favorite baits are clam meat, oyster meat, and black mussels. Any kind of shellfish are good,” he said.
Grenier uses 8-pound test line, a small baitcaster, and a 7-foot, 4-inch ALX Zolo rod. He uses a Carolina rig with either a 1/2-ounce or 1-ounce weight above the swivel, an 18-inch leader, and a No. 2 hook.
“At low tide, we are catching them off the very end of the pier that faces the harbor. At high tide, we are catching them at the front end of the pier that faces the parking lot. Throughout both tides, you can catch them around that pile of rubble that’s located toward the center of the pier,” he said.
Anglers don’t need to do any long casting when fishing for sheepshead. They just need to release their line so that the bait drops down along the pilings or rubble, then they need to move it slowly up and down the water column, or just hold it steady. Moving it around the piling is also a good idea, as this ensures a sheepshead that is holding in one spot will get a look at it. Those fish are looking for bait on the pilings, and they won’t pass up an easy meal that happens by.
“These fish have a very subtle bite, so that’s one challenge to many anglers. They feel just a light tap, then they wait for more, but by then, that fish is already gone with their bait,” said Grenier, who encourages anglers to set the hook and reel whenever they feel the slight tap.
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