Tips for Catching Spanish Mackerel and Sheepshead in the Gulf of Mexico

Spring is right around the corner and March and April are a great time to launch your boat and drop a line in the waters near Lands End Marina. Local anglers are busy landing two of the most popular spring time fish in the bay: sheepshead and Spanish Mackerel. Sheepshead make excellent eating and Spanish mackerel are fun to fight. Here’s what you need to know to catch these fish right now:

Spanish Mackerel

The beautiful thing about sheepshead and Spanish mackerel is that since both species tend to cluster around rock formations or other hard structures, you can catch both fish in the same spot, depending on where you fish in the water column.

Spanish mackerel tend to feed on baitfish schools near the surface, and you can often see them feeding from a distance. Look for churning water and drop a line while you drift through or anchor up. Sheepshead are deep-water fish, and much like grouper, they tend to stick to one spot. You’ll need to settle down and go deep around the rocks, pilings or bridges to catch them.

The best bait to use to catch both sheepshead and Spanish mackerel is live shrimp. Almost everything eats live shrimp, so this bait is virtually guaranteed to deliver a mixed bag. You might land ladyfish, sea bass or trout along with the mackerel and sheepshead.

Fiddler Crab Bait

If you’re specifically targeting sheepshead and have the time or inclination, you could catch fiddler crabs in the mud and grass below the high tide line on the bank. These small, multi-colored crabs are the prime bait for sheepshead, but they can’t be bought. Look for small holes disappearing into the mud along grassy banks, between the high and low tide lines. You don’t want a sandy beach. Dig them out by hand (kids love this, by the way) or throw a cast net and catch a bunch at one time. Sheepshead have been known to crack the crabs, suck out the succulent insides and spit out the shells, though, so you’ll want to keep an eye or finger on your line while fishing for sheepshead, especially with crabs.

Use Care when Cleaning Sheepshead

Sheepshead are hard to beat on the plate and they have a soft bite, but they do bite back. They have very big teeth and sharp spines on the dorsal fins, so be extra careful when landing and cleaning them.

The Spanish mackerel and sheepshead run in the Gulf will probably go another month, but as every seasoned angler knows, seeing Spanish mackerel feeding is the first sign that water temps are warming up and the kingfish are coming. It promises to be another spectacular summer here at Lands End Marina. Come on down and get a preview of what’s in store.

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