The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 27 - April 7, 2010

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Sheepshead provide a challenge to anglers

From the April 7, 2010 Issue
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PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS Andrew Moriarty holds one of the
many sheepshead he landed during his Florida visit.

Sheepshead may not be at the top of most anglers' catch lists, but maybe they should. These feisty game fish are plentiful during the winter and early spring when other species may be hard to find. They fight hard, are challenging to hook and make a great meal. Recently, I happened upon a group of anglers on a north Longboat Key dock and stopped to inquire about the fishing.

The report I got from Andrew Moriarty, who was fishing the dock with his dad Jim and brother Luke, was encouraging. The trio of anglers hails from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. They travel to Longboat Key to visit "Nana" Kip O'Neil, who lives in the Longbeach Village. Luke likes to fish but doesn't have the passion that his brother does. He really enjoys the beach and riding his bike. His brother Andrew is a die hard angler, and on the day we spoke, they had been on vacation for four days. All four days Andrew had been fishing. Not only had there been a lot of time spent on the docks, the size of the catch surprised me. The anglers (Andrew the most) had landed 24 sheepshead, whiting and pinfish. They also scored a sea robin and hooked a ray.

Naturally I was curious about the techniques Andrew (along with his brother and father) were using on these notoriously sly fish. It's no accident that they have the distinction of being known as the "convict" of game fish.

When I interviewed Andrew he informed me that he had been "hanging out fishing every day basically". He reported that the action had been better over Easter than last December. The tackle of choice is light spinning tackle and dead shrimp. Andrew, who has good instinct, pointed out that first you have to find the spot where sheepshead hang out. Sheepshead being notoriously hard to hook, I inquired about his technique. "When I feel them bite I kind of raise my fishing pole," he says. "You have to react right away," he said. "That way they get hooked in the mouth where they can't get off."

Andrew wants to help animals when he takes a job. Luke has plans to own his own airline company and has a name for it, Paradise Air. Since Andrew is 8 and Luke 10, they have plenty of time to pursue their respective passions. If their experience is an indication, local anglers might want to try targeting sheepshead until the waters warm up.

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