SALTWATER CHRONICLES – FLY FISHING ADVENTURES IN SALTWATER – Part 17
|Part 16 can be found here|
Saltwater Gamefish of the Sebastian Area
In this installment we will be covering sheepshead, pompano and gray (mangrove) snapper. A couple of years ago I had some friends from Georgia fishing with me and the gal hooked and land her first sheepshead on a fly and was astounded, telling that she had been told that you could not catch sheepshead on a fly. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I hope these chronicles help dispel some of this bad information, while explaining how much fun these species are for the saltwater fly angler. Another friend came to fish with me and it was his first trip to the salt and at the end of the trip he told me that he never dreamed that the fishing could be so much fun and that so many species could be caught. Yet you seldom hear or read about the fun you can have with over species besides the glamorous species you read about in the mainstream magazines.
Sheepshead [Archosargus probatocelphalus], are also referred to as convict fish, zebra fish and Southern sheep. They are a member of the Sparidae Family which includes porgy's and sea bream.
They are found along the coastal waters from Canada to Brazil and are primarily found inshore around dock pilings, rocky areas, jetties, mangrove roots and piers besides being found in tidal creeks and brackish water rivers.
The teeth of the sheepshead are well known and more than one angler has had their hooks bitten in half by the well defined incisors and strong jaws of this fish. They also have molars and grinders which are needed for crushing shellfish which is a major part of their diet.
Sheepshead will run between one to eight pounds with lengths of fourteen to eighteen inches on average but they can attain weights of twenty two pound and thirty inches and have a lifespan of twenty years.
Sheepshead are omnivorous feeding on invertebrates, small vertebrates, some plant material, blue crabs, oysters, clams, shrimp, squid, octopus, small eels, worms and minnows. Sheepshead tend to be a little spooky so they should be approached carefully and the flies should be cast ahead of the fish and moved when the fish come into range of the imitation.
Primarily sheepshead are early spring spawners, during the spawning cycle they move offshore and little is actually known about the spawning except the young end up in the inshore area's including the lagoons, estuaries, tidal creeks and brackish water rivers. Sheepshead are found at times in loose gatherings of four to six but the adults are primarily solitary fish.
These fish are favorite target of Bull Sharks, the anglers also like this fish on the table due to its fine white flesh and mild flavor. If you are targeting Sheepshead remember to use stout hooks!
Pompano [Trachinotus carolinus], they don't have another name but they can be confused with jack's and permit which are in fact cousins.
They prefer saltwater and are seldom found in brackish water but can be found in the surf flat, along sandy bottoms, around oyster beds and are found in the bays, lagoons and estuaries along the coastline of Florida. They do migrate up and down the coast and this is triggered by water temperature changes. They are also found around reef and caught off the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico they can live in water temperatures ranging from 62.6 to 89.6 degrees with the preferred zone being from 82.4 to 89.6 this was determine by researcher getting one drunk enough to spill the beans, so to speak. When the water temperatures drop below 53.96 or rises above 89.6 they will move into deeper water for relief.
Pompano spawn offshore and the spawning period is long lasting from April to September. Most Florida pompano caught are between 2 to 3 pounds and 17 inches. But they can reach nine pounds and twenty six inches and can live for seven years however the average is between four and five years.
Pompano are bottom feeders and feed on mole crabs (sand fleas), shrimp, clams and small minnows. Clouser style minnows and Sand Flea imitations are very productive flies for Pompano.
Pompano are currently being farmed through Aquaculture due to its popularity as a food fish.
Clouser style minnows and Sand Flea imitations are very productive flies for Pompano.
Gray Snapper [Lutjanus griseous], they are also called mangrove snapper, mango snapper, black snapper however in this missive I will refer to them as mangrove snapper and they are extremely abundant in the waters of Florida however they are found from Massachusetts to Brazil.
There are several different species of snapper found in the waters of Florida to include red snapper, mutton snapper, lane snapper, cubera snapper, dog snapper, schoolmaster's, yellowtail snapper, vermilion snapper, mahogany snapper, silk snapper and queen snapper but I chose the gray snapper because of its availability and wide range of habitat.
Mangrove Snapper are found in coastal areas including lagoons, tidal creeks, and estuaries, offshore in depths up to 585 feet. However, they are also very tolerant of salinity levels and found in brackish water and are found even in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.
The mangrove snapper is one of the smallest of the snappers and rarely exceed eighteen inches and rarely exceeds ten pounds. However, one was recorded at twenty four inches and twenty nine pounds taken off the Louisiana Coast and they have a lifespan of twenty five years.
Mangrove snappers are extremely opportunistic predators feeding on worms, shrimp, crabs and small minnows and will take both surface and subsurface imitations. The spawning occurs from April to November with peaks during the summer months, they spawn during the full moon cycle and an individual may spawn several times during the spawning cycle. The young move to the estuaries for food and protection. These guys are great sport fish which are sought by many angler by again seldom mention.
Once again I will share a few patterns with you and once again remind you that these patterns may work on a variety of saltwater species besides the ones I have covered in this selection.
Tan Rabbit Spoon Crab
- Hook: Mustad 34007 Sizes: 4/0-2
- Thread: Tan 6/0
- Weight: Wraps of non-toxic wire, as desired
- Tails: Tuff of Tan Rabbit fur with guard hairs, four to six strand of Root Beer Krystal Flash and two strands of Pearl Flash-A-Bou
- Antennae: Two strands of Black Krystal Flash
- Eyes: One pair of Black Stalk Eyes, made with a pair of black seed beads and 80 pound mono
- Underbody: Tan Estaz, wrapped and trimmed flat on the top
- Body: Gold flat spinner blade, fixed to the top of the underbody with 5 minute epoxy
- Backstrip: Short length of Tan Rabbit Strip
- Legs: Four strands of Pumpkin Sili-legs
I also tie this in an Olive variation and I have found this pattern to be very effective on Sheepshead and other gamefish which have a fondness for crabs.
Besides eating a variety of small baitfish minnows which have been amply documented in the previous pages of the Saltwater Chronicles, mangrove snapper will also take poppers off the surface and the following are two of my favorites.
Chartreuse & White Flash Popper
- Hook: Mustad 34007 >Sizes: 1/0-8
- Thread: White 6/0
- Popper: Dished Faced Foam Chartreuse Popper, with 3D Neon White with black centers applied with epoxy. There are many styles of popper heads which are effective the style you choose is strictly based on personal likes and what you would like the popper to accomplish on the surface of the water. The popper is super glued to hook shank over a bed of thread.
- Tails: White EP Fibers
- Collar: Chartreuse Trilobal hackle
Yellow Flash Popper
- Hook: Mustad 34007 >Sizes: 1/0-8
- Thread: Yellow 6/0
- Popper: Yellow Foam dished faced Popper
- Tails: Farrar's Yellow Flash Blend
- Collar: Olive Trilobal Hackle
Super Clouser Chartreuse & White Banded
- Hook: Mustad 34007 Sizes: 1/0-8
- Thread: Clear Ultra, Fine
- Eyes: Dumb-bell type, Painted Chartreuse with black centers, tied on the top of the hook shank
- Belly: White Ultra Hair
- Wing: Thin bunch of White Ultra Hair with four strands of Pearl Flash-A-Bou topped with Chartreuse Ultra Hair and the Chartreuse Ultra Hair is banded with a black sharpie marker
I tie these in several colors including banded tan, pink and white, and yellow and white in sizes 6 and 8 and they are my "Go To Flies" for pompano.
Inlet Tan Banded Shrimp
- Hook: Mustad 3407 Sizes: 2/0-8
- Thread: Tan 6/0
- Eyes: Dumb-bell type, Painted Yellow with Black centers, placed on the bottom of the hook shank
- Tails: White EP Fibers, with two strands of Black Krystal Flash topped with Tan EP Fibers, and then band the Tan EP Fibers with a brown Sharpie marker
- Collar: EP Tan Dubbing Brush with Rubber Legs
- Head: Tan Estaz figure eight wrapped around the eyes.
This pattern can be tied in several different color combinations that are effective and this pattern is also very effective on Sheepshead.
Give these patterns a try; if they don't work at least they make for a pretty and colorful fly box!
Enjoy & Good Fishin'
|Part 18 can be found here|