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JBMasterAngler

Catch & Release Sheephead

22 posts in this topic

Full swing river fishing is still aways away, but I thought I'd post this now since it's fresh in my mind. I've been fishing the rivers for years and I'm getting sick of watching people catching sheephead and intentionally killing them by throwing them on shore or against rocks. I'd like to point out that littering the shoreline with a fish of any species is ILLEGAL! Also, what is the point of doing that? I myself don't particularly care for sheephead because of they're tendency to swallow the hook, but I release them as quickly and as painlessly as I would a trophy bass. Sheephead are almost as numerous as carp, but unlike carp they play a very important and valuable role in river management. They are one of the few native species of fish that regularly eat zebra mussels, meaning they may be our only natural defense against those exotics. Also, and more importantly, young sheephead are an important forage fish for walleye, northern pike, and catfish. So next time you catch a sheephead, just put it back in the river.

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i hear what your sayin i fished a spot last year form shore alot went down there one day and there was at least 20 sheephead and carp littering the area where i wa gonna fish what a stinky mess just so happened the game warden came down there and asked me how fishing was i said its not very good it smells so bad in this area even the fish cant stand it he laughed and said hed keep eyes open for the culprit week later i was down there again and low and behold heres a guy in his 60s 70s catching sheephead and just leaving them lay i asked him why he does that he said they keep stealing his bait and they no good to eat i told him the pelicans love them just toss them back this meant nothing to him i just packed up and left.its not only the youngsters who have disreguard for the law

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I have killed a lot of them digging hooks out, but my cats love sheepie fillets.

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I do believe years back it was illegal to throw carp back, so I can see how older people might still think that's the case.

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Sheepies love to swallow the hook.

There is an awesome technique that I learned a couple years ago to pop hooks out of fish that everyone needs to know.

#1- You need to know which way the hook is embedded because thats the side of the fish you'll work on.

#2- Reach up through that side's gills and grab the line with a pliers or hemostat.

#3- Once you've fished the line through the gills, pull down on the line.

#4- When you pull down on the line, the hook rotates in the fishes mouth. A lot of the time it'll just pop out as well.

#- Once the hook shank and hook point are rotated and pointing into the fishes mouth, just reach in the mouth with your pliers, grab the hook, and pull it out.

Voila!

It really is hard to describe the technique in words, but once you have it figured out, its a piece of cake. Its a lot easier on the fish this way.

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Don't forget circle hooks, I ve been using a ton of them over the years. Mostly becuase I hate digging around trying to unhook fish. But also because I like the way they hold onto a fish

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What does a circle hook do to prevent swallows? How differently does it hook the fish?

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A circle hook is designed so that it will pull out of the mouth and then turn and grab the lip as it exits (you pulling). For this reason, you never want "set the hook" when you are using circles. Enough force will pull the hook right out without making the turn.

I have almost gone exclusively to circle hooks. There are still some occasions where a plain J or Kahle will excel.

Also circles aren't foolproof, you can still gut hook a fish, though the percentages of this happening is lowered significantly.

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Like I said in another post, sheeps will eagerly snatch up a lure (and bend your hooks).. Funny you don't catch too many big ones tho. The state record is a little over 30lbs I believe. One of the best fighting fish I ever caught was a 29" sheep in the Otter Tail river. I in my waders and the fish on my shad rap. First cast of the morning down below Orwell..that fish ran like the dickins! I wouldn't mind at all catching more fish like that one grin.gif

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I've literally caught hundreds of sheephead, rarely do I catch them over 3 pounds. The littles ones don't put up any fight at all, but yeah, the bigger ones have a little muscle. It's amazing that the state record is so big, I think the biggest one I've ever caught was about 8 pounds.

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they do seem to like those cranks I get alot around 4-5 on #9 fat raps when trolling. last season I saw somebody boat a really large one in the channel outside watergate. Down in the keys I caught some of there salt water versions, on large shrimp, picture fighting a 10 pound sunfish

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Caught a big sheephead a couple of years back on a bullhead while flathead fishing. Dont know what the sheaphead thought it was doing because the bullhead was wedged in its mouth so tight it woulda died if we hadnt pulled it out.

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the saltwater and freshwaterspecies are not at all alike. the saltwater ones taste great panfried, the only good way to eat the frehwater ones is to smoke them.

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I am glad that this is being talked about! I get very irritated watching pompous fisherman through sheephead on the bank looking for that one walleye. I eat sheepies all the time. They fillet nicely and fry up as well as any panfish might. They are not at all oily. Next time you are out and that is all you seem to catch, take a few home and give them a try!

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I totally agree. But...I've seen DNR guys do nothing with ppl leaving carp and sheepheads on shore to die. I do hope everyone practices C&R or even just keeping what they eat. Keeps our water and fish quality healthy. Every fish plays a part. But...for kicks....heres one that was caught last year by Blackdog, and WAS released! Sheepies take a very long time to get this big...so.. I wonder how old this guy was?

IMG_2502smaller.jpg

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wow thats the biggest sheep I seen!

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that is an awesome fish. do you know what it was caught on?

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haha..for the record...that's my buddie's mug up there! Its not me. grin.gif I took the picture! We were using shad for bait. This is a nice spot down by Blackdog. You can find everything in this little, BUSY spot.

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Wow, that's a nice one! I posted this thread like 2 months ago and put it in about 6 different forums, I've had nothing but lot's of positive feedback, so it's good to know there's alot of fisherman out there that feel the same way as I do about this. As far as eating sheepies, I've heard lot's of input on that...I personally never keep anything unless I'm fishing with my dad (why clean fish when I can have him do it?) maybe I'll try talking him into keeping a few sheephead, kinda' curious to taste them now.

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The big ones sure do fight... grin.gif

DSCN07971SmallWinCE.jpg

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My neighbors told me the love sheepies. They said the larger ones kinda taste like pork. I don't think I'll try any of the larger ones...but maybe the smaller ones this summer.

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The little ones are tasty! I tried some last summer.

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