Warning: Convicts on the loose

That’s right, it’s that time of year to look for the Convict fish AKA “sheepshead”. With the colder waters these fish can be found anywhere there is structure. Look around the rock piles, docks and channel markers. On a recent charter, I anchored on a near by rock area. I used a #1 hook with a small weight and a piece of shrimp along with cut up shrimp for chum. Within a short time we had some nice sheeps 18 - 20 inches. Size limit is 12 inches and 15 per person to keep. Bait to use: shrimp, crabs or barnacles.
Other inshore species like trout, redfish, black drum and snook can still be caught in the back water areas. In our area, fish around the oyster beds, mangroves and deeper holes especially if their near a spring. The best bait to use is select shrimp, creek cubs and small crabs. With these I like to use a 4/0 circle hook with a small weight and 20 pound fluorocarbon leader spooled with 15 pound braid on the reel. The best time is two hours before and two hours after the high tide. Use caution with these extreme winter low tides we’ve been having.
Offshore fishing has been a challenge with the cold fronts, wind and dirty water. For those willing to take on this challenge, there are still a lot of fish to be caught. Grey snapper (grunts), sea bass, gag grouper (can’t keep-seasonal), and red grouper are still being caught regularly. Look for them at your rock piles in 20 to 60 feet. Once we start getting some steady warm weather, the Spanish mackerel, kingfish, cobia and shark will be moving into the near shore areas.
Recently I had the honor to be the speaker at the Weeki Wachee Anglers club (http://www.weekiwacheeanglersinc.com). These fellow anglers welcomed me and made me feel like part of the club. They have events, fishing trips and a whole lot of stories. Weather you have a boat or not, you can interact with fishermen and women with the same interest If your into fishing (you must be or you wouldn’t be reading this) check out a club in your area.
Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!

Capt. Joel operates Fishdaddy Charters out of Hernando Beach, he knows the local waters like the back of his hand, and works both inshore and offshore trips. You can reach him at (352) 279-1615 or visit his website, www.fishdaddycharter.com