Gut Rumbles

April 04, 2005


The old man sat on the rocks of the seawall, just high enough so the breaking waves wouldn't wet him. He wore white boots and had a five-gallon plastic bucket by his side. He had a gray beard and his skin was the color of burnt toast.

I had just finished my 5-mile beach run and was doing a little rock-hopping, just to exercise my legs. The old man never looked up at me, so I decided to be sociable. "Catching anything?" I asked.

"Do you really give a shit?" he replied in a voice like a bullfrog.

Bastard. He wasn't going to intimidate me. I sat down on a rock next to him. He had a 15' cane pole out in the water. I watched the float bob up and down on the waves. "Don't look like much is happening today," I observed.

"Look in the bucket," he replied. I did and he had THREE nice sheephead in there.

"Whoa! That ain't bad!" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, that sheephead, he's a slick fish. They hide down in them rocks and they don't BITE. They like to suck and nibble at the bait and they can clean that hook without ever moving that float. Unless you've got the right bait."

About that time his float took a plunge and he snatched another big sheephead out of the water. On a fucking cane pole. I was amazed.

I knew that most people used fiddler crabs for bait when fishing for sheephead, but I also knew that this guy had to be using something else. Sheephead aren't that easy to catch.

He finally showed me what he was using and I have passed this tip on to other fishermen and they all agree that it's the best bait for sheephead that they ever saw. Any idea what it is?

I'll give you a hint--- it involves a raw oyster.


Would it be the muscle that holds the shell together? Tough little sucker and unlikely to be nibbled away.

Posted by: BlogDog on April 5, 2005 12:05 AM

a whole oyster or mussel, shell crushed just enough to see it ooze and hook it shell and all...

Posted by: Kelley on April 5, 2005 12:17 AM

I'd be interested to hear your recipe for Sheepshead. Only way I have ever fixed them is in a croquet. like Mom used to fix canned salmon. Damn things are fun to catch but are boney as hell. Grazers they are. It's the small mouth and the buck teeth that give them the edge.

Posted by: bitterman on April 5, 2005 12:25 AM

These fuckin' Sheephead's in my neck o' the woods are full of worms. Man I ain't shittin ya. I ain't never seen something so disgusting. Most fish have some kind of worm, but man these fish are loaded with them from asshole to dorsal fin. Wouldn't eat one of them nasty fuckers if I was starvin....well ok maybe if I was starvin. Hope you got cleaner fish in the Atlantic. We got pretty water here in the gulf.....but wormy assed Sheepheads I tell ya.

Posted by: DONGER on April 5, 2005 12:35 AM

I didn't know anyone purposely caught sheephead. We've always thrown them back. They are a fun fish on the end of line though.

Posted by: drc on April 5, 2005 06:34 AM

5 mile beach run?!!
You complain about all your ailments, but if you can run 5 miles you must be in better shape than most of us think.
-Or was this an old story? Tell me, can you still run 5 miles?

Posted by: Phil Peterson on April 5, 2005 12:18 PM

I would tend to go along with Kelly's answer (cracked shellfish maybe? )but then again I don't know much about saltwater sheephead. We catch the freshwater version all the time while fishing for walleye in the great lakes. They'll hit crankbaits and worms all the time. But like DRC said, we always throw them back because they're a nasty tasting garbage fish.

They do clean up the pesky zebra mussels though and they put up a good fight when hooked. Can get to be pretty sizeable too.

Posted by: marcl on April 5, 2005 12:59 PM

This must be a different fish than the sheepshead I used to catch on the Mississippi. But those were nasty fish too.

Posted by: Desert Cat on April 6, 2005 01:40 AM

I can't run five yards anymore, let anlone five miles. I talked to that old black man sometime around 1980, when I was still in my athletic days. If I truied that "rock-hopping" today, I'd bust my ass and EMC would have to come get me on a stretcher.

But the bait the guy used was a raw oyster tied in cheesecloth. The sheephead could get a taste of the oyster but couldn't suck it off the hook. The fish would get pissed and just bite the whole thing in a fit of frustration.

Try it. It works.

Posted by: Acidman on April 6, 2005 04:54 PM

Bait: A couple of oysters or barnacles, out of the shell wrapped in a small piece of cheese cloth with a #1 or 1/0 hook laced thru the cloth and bait.

Sheephead in SC are a prized tasty fish. Fillet the rascals. Mix one egg with one cup milk to make a dip. Dip fillet into the beaten mixture, and then put in a pan with salt and peppered flour. take a spoon and put the flour on top of the fillet. Dip a second time and do the same. Put the fillet into the salt and peppered flour and then stack the flour on top of the fillet with a spoon. Deep fry until golden brown.

Never seen a worm of anykind in a sheephead fillet from the South Carolina waters. Plenty of worms in AmberJack, but not sheephead around here.

Posted by: Mudrat on February 6, 2009 09:37 AM
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