Page 114 - South Mississippi Living - March, 2023
P. 114

  A man nets a sheepshead caught by a young angler while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
 Many Mississippi anglers view sheepshead with contempt because their notorious bait-stealing skills keep people from catching speckled trout or other more desirable species. However, these large, abundant and powerful fish can provide great sport for anglers of all ages.
“For many years, sheepshead have been underrated as sport fish,” advises Dustin McGill with Navigator Fishing Charters in Gulfport. “Over the past few years, their reputation has climbed. Sheepshead are great species for children to learn how to hook and fight fish.”
Sheepshead can exceed 20 pounds. In Mississippi waters, most range from one to four pounds, but anglers catch some bigger ones. The state record weighed 19 pounds, 10 ounces. Anglers typically catch the biggest ones during the spring spawning season.
“March is the peak time to fish for sheepshead along the Mississippi Coast because that’s when they spawn,” McGill
explains. “During the spawning season, we catch some in the 8- to 10-pound range. If we get in a good spot in March, we get a bite on almost every cast. Some days, we’ve caught 50 to 60 sheepshead.”
In Mississippi, sheepshead spawn from February through April. The spawning peaks from late March through early April. Spawning takes place in offshore waters, but not far from the mainland. Sheepshead spawn several times during the season.
“We have a very robust sheepshead population,” confirms Matt Hill with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi. “I think sheepshead is an underutilized species in our recreational fishery. In January and February, sheepshead are staging inshore, but they move offshore in a large congregation when ready to spawn.”
Sheepshead love crunching barnacles with their teeth and powerful jaws so they normally stay near any hard
114 | March 2023 | SOUTH MISSISSIPPI Living

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