Grab some fiddler crabs and meet me at the nearest rockpile.
|Captain Denny ties in to a good Cedar Key Sheepshead.|
I sat on this post for about a month as a favor to the sheepshead of the Gulf of Florida.
During the spring, for a few short weeks, the sheepshead congregate around underwater structure in preparation for spawning. Even the smallest limerock ledge or rockpile might attract dozens of randy sheepshead.
Obviously, this makes for good fishing, but it can make for bad OVERfishing too. I didn't want to advertise the fact that they were clumped together and waaaaay too easy to catch while that was the situation.
By now the party is over and the tired, happy sheepshead are dispersing again to places where they are not so easy for we fisherfolk to find.
We caught a bunch of them on this beautiful spring day, but only kept a small fraction of the overly generous legal limit, since it was spawning time.
Stripes like this on fish are called "disruptive coloration". It is a form of protective coloration where the "intent" is to break up your fishy outline rather than match some background color perfectly.
Fish books will say, "Sheepshead are also called 'convict fish' due to their stripes."
If you say so, but I've been around sheepshead and sheepshead fisherfolk all my life and I have NEVER heard anyone call them convict fish.
I mean, I get it and all, but I just have never heard that name used.
The business end.
This is the last thing a fiddler crab ever sees if it is careless in sheepshead country. The sheepshead is a nibbler. They seek out rocks, oyster bars, pilings, ... any kind of structure that might support barnacles or small crabs. Then they go to work ... nibbling with these specialized teeth.
A lot of sheepshead fisherfolk carry a flat blade shovel in their boat so they can scrape barnacles off bridge pilings to chum the water and stir the sheepshead into a feeding frenzy.
Sheepshead are crustacean eaters and as you might expect of an animal that eats other delicious animals, they are fantastic table fare.
The meat is sweet. REALLY, it is.
The sweetness just jumps out at you when you bite into a bit of sheepshead
The sheepshead that we did keep went on to the ice immediately. The ice serves two purposes. Obviously it keeps the fish fresh, but I think plunging fish into a cold slurry is just about the most humane way to dispatch an ectothermic fish on those days when we do take some home to eat.
In another post, we'll chat about the cooking of sheepshead filets. This post is just about the gettin'.
(Miz S, go ahead and google myomeres and myoglobin so you are prepared for class.)
One of the neatest things about this fishing trip was the Seaview camera that Denny brought along. He's had it for a few years, but the thing keeps on ticking. It's a waterproof video camera with about a hundred feet of cable and an onboard viewing screen.
When the fishing lulled momentarily, Denny tossed the rugged little video camera over the side and then dragged it across the bottom until the tiny artificial reef came in to view. This reef is primarily made up of old concrete culverts and the fish seem to approve.
Check out the video below, but remember ... it is a video of a video. The topside part of the Seaview camera is a small screen inside a cone shaped ... cloaking device (no, Trekkies, not that kind) . You put your face up to the cone and watch the video without glare from the sun.
So, just imagine my face and my camera smooshed into the viewing cone video recording the video recording.
Denny brings it along on some of his charters so nonfishers or kids can fish watch while the fishing is going on. He says it is extremely popular and I can see why.
Immediately below is a still picture from the Seaview and below that is a short video clip.
Is that addictive or what?