One must love March– or at least I do. The cold, gloomy winter weather is passing, and the promising signs of new life are showing.
We’ve had a very mild winter this year, and the best trout fishing spree we’ve seen in probably 10 years. Large speckled trout were being caught easily, and many anglers finished their trips with the legal limit.
In an effort to rebuild the stock, South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources is asking anglers to release flounder, as the stocks seem so low. Voluntary conservation is so much better than legal limits, as the science is not easy to dial-in with fisheries.
Well, so much for the bad news. Let’s get back to the promise of spring.
My favorite fish to catch, bluewater species aside, is the master bait thief, the cunning and most clever of the inshore species: the sheepshead.
To coin a worn-out phrase, the best method to catch one of these tasty battlers is to “hook him before he bites.”
Sporting a set of molars that can crush mussels and barnacles with ease, the sheepshead can make taking a tasty fiddler crab off your hook a simple endeavor .
Fiddlers seem to be irresistible to these stocky, black-and-white-striped bruisers, so they are the preferred bait. Try fishing alongside bridges or pilings, with a short leader and an egg sinker above the rig, just enough weight to hold in the current.
I also use this same rig on the offshore reefs. If you anchor above the structure, you can drop the sinker so it sits just off the bottom. Keep tension on the line, along with a keen eye on your rod tip, for the telltale tap of a bite.
Once you see it, chances are you’ve already been taken by the crafty sheepshead. Rebait and repeat.
With a couple of hundred fiddlers and some practice, you will enjoy a great battle and some of the best-eating fish you ever will wrap your lips around. See ya out on the water!
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. The Finaticboat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers, features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.