Here’s to hoping this forecast is slightly better than the weatherman’s. After digging into the log books, one thing usually stands out going into spring…water temperature. It seems like 68-72 degrees is a fairly magic number. Trout spawn, redfish tail, flounder file in, triple tail start to show, sharks are on the prowl, baitfish are abundant and those white shrimp start to grow and move.
One inshore species that probably is under targeted is sheepshead. These fish are great table fare and are available year round. Like many species, clear water helps. Also, current plays a big factor. Too much, and the presentation is tough, and lack of current usually causes lock jaw. The trick is to find those tides or tide stages where the current is moderate and you can fish vertically. Sheepshead can be found at nearly every piling on the coast, and the older the better. Rock piles, jetties and bluffs with fallen timber are all good choices as well. Present your bait vertically with enough weight so the current doesn’t sweep your rig away. A small octopus hook baited with pieces of shrimp, mussels, clams, oyster meat, or a fiddler crab all work well.
Trout will be shallow on the high tides and deeper on the low. Early morning high tides will set up great for popping corks and top water plugs. For those who like plastics, try a soft plastic jerk bait rigged on an extra wide gap worm hook. Pitch this rig into the grass and twitch it out slowly…the slightest tap can be a nice fish, so be ready! On the low tide, I like float rigs in 6-14 feet of water. Clean deep creek bends and drop offs next to shell in the bigger systems work well. Remember to adjust your float as the water will be falling or rising at about a foot an hour…or an inch every five minutes. Often these small adjustments can be the difference between getting bit or not. I like a #1 kahle hook tied with a loop knot. This small hook and knot allows the shrimp to kick freely and will stick that speck every time. Although there are thousands of artificials that will work, try using that same soft plastic jerk bait pegged to a jig head. Experiment with weight and presentation. Start with a slow drag or hop on up to a big hop or constant twitching retrieve. As with any artificial, try to remember what you were doing when you got bit.
As with nearly all species, water clarity is a huge factor as well. So, whenever possible, concentrate your efforts on finding “good water”.
I’ll put out another forecast in a couple of days with some more species and techniques we like to use on them. Also I am working on a “prime time” calendar for the coastal marshes of Southeast Coast where tides range from 5 -10 ft. on average.