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Old 06-13-2018, 01:58 PM   #1
Mr. NiceGuy
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Questions About California Sheephead

Where are the best areas for targeting California Sheephead in San Diego?

From reading everything I can find on Internet, I will guess that a good place to start is in the rocky areas off the end of Point Loma, from the MPL down to about Whistling Buoy #1 in the approach to SD Bay.


A few questions to help narrow my search and new endeavor:

1. Are sheephead hanging out in ANY rocky-kelpy areas around San Diego, or are they more specific to certain areas?

2. Should we lean toward larger baits or smaller baits?

3. What depth range is typical for the older striped males?

4. I'm guessing that catching sheephead is bait specific and that since their feeding habit is nibbling creatures off rocks, maybe a dropper loop rig might be best, with an easy-to-break-off weight?

5. Multiple hooks? How high from the bottom do sheephead typically do their grazing?

6. I saw a huge load of active freshwater crawdads at an Asian market yesterday. Do freshwater crawdads die instantly when dropped into salt water or will these hold up in the ocean as "live" bait?

7. I don't mind going out to suck up some ghost shrimps the evening before, if this works better than mass-killing of crawdads in saltwater.


For fun and variety, I want to focus my attention on learning to target a species I'm not familiar with. I want to explore beautiful places in my kayak I've not yet explored.

On the philosophical side, my preference is learning to target exactly the fish I want to eat and to avoid collateral damage to other species. Under my own rules for killing living creatures and for respect of the awesome beauty of nature, I recognize that I'm an omnivore and I think it's reasonably OK to kill what we eat as part of the natural food chain. I try my best to avoid indiscriminate killing and to avoid species that are not replenishing themselves. I want to respect the sanctity of life and the evolution of other species. I want our fisheries to flourish as much as possible in the face of the massive population growth of so damn many people who tend to proliferate and consume mindlessly and deplete all natural resources to extinction.

My personal challenge for my love of kayak fishing is both for the exercise in the beauty of nature, and to gain the knowledge and skill to go out and catch exactly the fish I want to bring home for a special sumptuous dinner. I try to use 100% of anything I kill, down to the soup broth. From Yanni, I've learned to cook the leftover mackerels I use for bait. When I come home empty-handed, it thrills me that the fish won and will live to see another day :-)
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Old 06-13-2018, 03:42 PM   #2
Ggiannig89
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Donít be scared to Find or make an opening in the middle of the kelp. Shrimp works well especially if you can find whole market shrimp. Iíve never tried crawdads but always wondered. I bet the crawdads would work great salted to have a salty scent instead of a strange freshwater scent. Good luck and let us know if you learn anything
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Old 06-13-2018, 03:58 PM   #3
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Crushed mussels scraped off a pier and/or garden snails might also be worth a try. Yum! Fresh whole shrimp seem to be mentioned the most for targeting sheephead.
They have those jaws and buck teeth for a reason.


FACTOID: all California Sheephead are born as pink females. Around 7-8 years they transition to male goats and develop their stripes. Setting minimum catch sizes has made populations mostly female, with negative effect on population sizes.
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Old 06-13-2018, 09:34 PM   #4
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Fresh dead and rigged so it lays on the bottom. *Reverse dropper loop mack strips will slay em if you find em. Nov-Dec has always been prime time for me.
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Old 06-14-2018, 06:31 AM   #5
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Fresh dead and rigged so it lays on the bottom. Dropper loop mack strips will slay em if you find em. Nov-Dec has always been prime time for me.
Reverse Dropper Loop to keep the bait flat on the bottom?
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Old 06-14-2018, 08:36 AM   #6
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Crushed mussels scraped off a pier and/or garden snails might also be worth a try. Yum! Fresh whole shrimp seem to be mentioned the most for targeting sheephead.
They have those jaws and buck teeth for a reason.
I have heard garden snails are good but have not tried them. Same thing on chumming a bunch of crushed up mussels then dropping a chunk down with a hook in
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:27 AM   #7
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I've caught goats in the kelp and rocks from ~50 ft to 150 ft. I've had good luck with shrimp, ghost shrimp and squid. Octopus will work as well as clams and crustaceans, mollusks and hard-shellfish. I typically prefer spectra with a short leader material, so there is less stretch in the line. I have used both dropper and reverse, but usually just stick with traditional dropper and a basic knot on the weight to break of in the case of snags. They will sometimes nibble and play, but once they load the rod you need to get them off the rocks or you may risk loosing them.
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:45 AM   #8
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Sheepshead

I love your philosophy on fishing. I fancy myself as a hunter-gatherer, but I don't always want just any fish. Don't get me wrong, the family loves a fish-fry! Sheepshead and red snapper are my favorites for the feast.

As I learn the areas I fish in So Cal, I find you can find all of the species in each bay from SD to Lompoc. Not much experience further north.

That being said, I have structure where I can guarantee I'll find certain species. I also learned that the same structure produces the same results in SD as well as Malibu. You are one of us that does put in time on the water and next time I go to my sheepshead spot I will send you a picture of the FF screen. That way you won't pass by a potential spot without a drop down.

BTW - I use fresh cut mac on a 2 hook gangion suspended one - two foot off the bottom. I have found over the years everything bites fresh cut mac and I know how to catch them, now. LOL
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Old 06-14-2018, 08:39 PM   #9
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Reverse Dropper Loop to keep the bait flat on the bottom?
Oops, edited. Yes reverse dropper loop. Bait laying on the bottom has been very successful for me. Suspended bait will attract everything else. But goats seem better proficient at eating off the floor... just like actual goats.
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Old 06-16-2018, 06:40 AM   #10
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Nov. / Dec. my best time in the past


drop shot setup



they like squid heads too
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Old 06-16-2018, 08:15 PM   #11
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Crawdads seemed like a great idea since they love lobster. The crawdads stayed alive amazingly well in saltwater in areas that normally produce. Nothing touched them the one time I used them.
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Old 06-16-2018, 08:45 PM   #12
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Crawdads seemed like a great idea since they love lobster. The crawdads stayed alive amazingly well in saltwater in areas that normally produce. Nothing touched them the one time I used them.
That's good to know. I'll stick with shrimps and mussels for now.

Joey at Squidco is a person who's opinions I respect. He said the "big bait, big fish" rule applies with sheephead. He said larger baits are not a deterrent. .
I know sheephead tend to be nibblers of crustaceans in the rocks, reefs and stuck to kelp, so I was wondering if larger baits would separate larger sheephead from younger females and smaller rockfish, or if smaller baits were more important for sheephead in general.

Maybe tuna crabs would be good when they are available?

This looks so delicious, I'm tempted to try it myself!


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Old 06-18-2018, 08:09 AM   #13
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Just fyi I have found red crab in the stomachs of multiple types of rockfish, all 3 bass etc. If you're really trying to go species specific it might not be the best bait. Otherwise it's a great bait.

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Old 06-18-2018, 08:40 AM   #14
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One thing I noted watching that episode Robert field did with Kevin nagata was the number of rockfish they ended up pulling up while trying to find goats using shrimp on the dropper.

I have been meaning to try smaller shrimp, as the big ones I put in the bag with my squid tend to be very hard to keep on the hook.

Nice guy, thanks for sharing that on your philosophy. Well said!
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Old 06-18-2018, 05:10 PM   #15
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Bottomfish don't seem to be keened on red crab as much as other species. They are very opportunistic from what I've seen. These last few years how many rockfish have we caught coughing up red crabs while we hooked them on squid, chunks, strips, jigs, plastics, flys, etc. I'd prefer using a bait that stands out rather than what they're actively feeding on.

Tuna are a species more likely to be keened on a single food source until something changes. Unless you got live squid... in my experience they will forget whatever they're feeding on for some squish.
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