The inshore waters of southeastern North Carolina warmed up enough during the last two weeks to activate a good sheepshead bite.
“We fish docks, bridge pilings and the four-legged range markers in the (Cape Fear) River, especially those lone ones in the middle of the river,” said Capt. Jeff Wolfe of Seahawk Inshore Charters of Carolina Beach (910-619-9580, www.seahawkinshorefishingcharters.com). “The lone river range markers are good places to find sheepshead ganged up because there’s nothing much else out there for them to feed on.”
Docks and piers near Southport and Bald Head Island also are good places to try for sheepshead, which feed on barnacles and other crustaceans.
“I use fiddler crabs (as bait) because that’s what sheepshead really like,” Wolfe said. “I have a neighbor with a bulkhead, and I walk through the grass and run a bunch of ’em up against his bulkhead where I can catch 50 or so of them with my hands in just a few minutes.”
Sheepshead are notorious bait-stealers, so Wolfe’s secret is to use small VMC 1-0 live-bait hooks. These hooks each feature three small barbs, which is important for sheepshead angling.
“The barbs are small and hard to see, but they work good,” he said. “They seem to penetrate (a fish’s) molars and catch them in their hard mouths.”
The best time to try for sheepshead is at low tide, Wolfe said.
“I use about 1 1/2 feet of 40-pound-test fluorocarbon leader, a 1-ounce barrel weight, a basic Carolina rig,” he said. “You try to drop the fiddler crab right behind a piling on the down-current side so it won’t push your bait away from the piling. Then you just set the hook right before he bites.”
Actually, Wolfe said, he watches his rod tip to see the slight tap of a fish, then sets the hook when he sees the tip move.
“Keep your rod tip close to the water,” he said. “Sometimes you can see your line moving off and one will have it.”
Wolfe and his clients have been catching sheepshead that weigh from 1 to 7 pounds.
“We’re also catching redfish on topwater plugs right now at the bays north of Bald Head Island,” he said.