Captains Gabrielle Barnes and Lionel James share their proven tactics for successful sheepshead fishing, focusing on the Destin bridge area.
In mid to late December, sheepshead gather at bridges, staying until their offshore spawning migration in March. The key is to find moving water, creating an eddy behind the bridge square, where the action happens.
Gabby and Lionel efficiently secure their boat using an anchor around the bridge support, then scrape barnacles and oysters off the square’s edges. They shuck oysters, breaking the shells into pieces, creating a chum slick to attract sheepshead.
For optimal success, Gabby recommends using freshly shucked oysters as bait, emphasizing patience in letting the bait sit. The right tackle is crucial—typically a 3000 or 4000 reel, lighter action rod, braid with a 15- or 20-pound leader, and a small wire hook.
The banter between Gabby and Lionel adds to the experience. While Gabby consistently lands sheepshead, Lionel occasionally loses fish. Gabby emphasizes the importance of letting the bait sit, despite other fish like red and black drum being attracted to the chum.
The day ends with Lionel landing a keeper sheepshead, showcasing the effectiveness of Gabby and Lionel’s techniques. They use oysters and barnacles as chum, but it’s important to note the regulations regarding oyster harvesting.
Overall, Gabby and Lionel’s approach to sheepshead fishing under bridges is a blend of precision, patience, and a touch of humor, making for an unforgettable fishing experience.