Sheepshead fish prefer all sorts of mollusks and crustaceans, but every experienced angler will agree that their absolute favorite dish is the fiddler crab. Other great baits you could try out include sand fleas, mussels, shrimp, mud crabs, oysters, mangrove tree crabs, and even barnacles. This article highlights the top 10 best baits for sheepshead plus expert fishing tips to help you catch more of this very popular and tasty bottom fish.
These members of the porgy family are mostly found along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard all the way to the mid-Atlantic. Fortunately, sheepsheads tend to school up in large numbers. So, once you locate your ideal fishing spot, you can make a big catch in a short amount of time. More importantly, sheepsheads are great to eat, as long as you have the skills to clean their large rib cage properly.
Top 10 Best Baits for Sheepshead
In no particular order, here are the best sheepshead baits to consider for your next fishing expedition. Please note that small crabs are juvenile versions of protected species. Always do your due diligence to ensure you’re using “legal” crabs.
1. Fiddler Crabs
Fiddler crabs are considered the best bait for catching sheepshead because they are very hardy. So, if you can find a good fiddler crab to use, that is what you should do first. Fiddler crabs are big enough to be used as bait. They can be retrieved whole and thrown in the water. Also, note that they are a little delicate, but they are pretty tough bait that stays on the hook well. Their males bite hard because they have a big claw on one of their sides. But females don’t have as many claws as males.
Fiddlers also have very small pinchers that are not very strong, so if you get pinched, it probably won’t cause much damage. But nobody likes getting pinched. If you feel it’s trying to grab you, try picking them up from behind or holding onto them with a big claw.
Where To Find Fiddler Crabs
You can buy a dozen fiddler crabs for about $4 at a local bait shop, or you can catch them yourself. Fiddler crabs live on the ground in wet areas. Place them where there is not a lot of foot traffic. They prefer places with some kind of dam or structure nearby. It’s best to search for fiddler crabs at low tide to catch them.
Once you find their habitat, you can catch fiddler crabs in many different ways. You can also grab them by dragging them along the shore with your bare hands or catch them by fishing with a net. If you catch a bunch of fiddler crabs, place them in a plastic bucket and put a little water to keep them moist, but not so much that you can drown them.
How To Rig Fiddler Crabs
Some people like to leave their crabs with the large claws on, but others think it’s best to remove the claws completely, to help keep them from easily eating your bait. I leave the claw on myself, but whatever you do, it’s fine. Sheepshead will easily eat them with that big claw.
Use a hook that attaches to the crab and sticks out of its shell, like a large jig. It’s fine to use a jig head of some kind. Go easy when you insert a hook into a fiddler crab, so it doesn’t crush it. They will stay alive for a while if you don’t use a big hook. Hook up a variety of different baits to get good results.
2. Small Crabs for Sheepshead
You can take different types of mud crabs to try and catch some fish with. Some of the best crabs for your bait are the mud crab and the mangrove crab. If you’re using small crabs to bait fish, you need to know how to tell legal crabs from other protected species. When using mud crabs, you need to be careful that you don’t accidentally catch any stone crabs.
Where To Find Small Crabs
You’ll need to catch your own crabs (which you’ll need to do by hand). They are found near and on very hard structures, like jetty rocks. You’ll need to flip large rocks at low tide to grab some mud crabs. Pay attention to what you do so as not to cut yourself accidentally.
Mangrove tree crabs are very easy to catch; they come down from bridges, trees, and docks. Grab some by hand, or knock them off and put them in buckets or nets you hold under them. Take care not to confuse protected crabs with legal ones. Sometimes juvenile crabs can cause trouble. Before you start using small crabs for bait, learn what kinds of crabs are legal in your area and how to tell the difference between them and their protected cousins.
How To Rig Small Crabs
Rig other small crabs similarly to how you would catch a fiddler crab – by inserting a #1 hook from the bottom and up to the top.
3. Cut Blue Crabs
Blue crabs are a great bait for getting sheepshead. Blue crabs are big enough that they can be used whole. They’re also quite dangerous when used in large amounts. Firstly, you’ll need to quarter up some blue crabs to use them. If this is what you have available, use them. Otherwise, other baits will be a lot easier to use. When tearing apart blue crabs, save the bits and pieces left in the carcass. They will help to cause trouble for the convicts.
Where To Find Blue Crabs
Blue crabs can be purchased from most bait shops, or you can catch them yourself. To catch them, set up traps or drag them from a boat. You can even line them on a boat. Be very careful not to get pinched by the claws of a blue crab because they are very strong. Hold them from the back to avoid getting injured.
How to Rig Blue Crabs
If you want to use blue crabs as sheepshead bait, remove their claws and break off their top shells. First, remove the legs and cut the meat into quarters using a pair of sharp scissors or a knife. If you are fishing for big blue crabs, you may need to cut them down even smaller. Run your hook through one of the leg holes and out of the body, and you’re good to go.
4. Ghost Shrimp
Ghost shrimp are very effective baits for sheepshead. These shrimp are very effective; the best thing is that they are free. However, ghost shrimp are not the easiest bait to get, so you have to sweat to find them. If you can find them, pull them up with a homemade device.
Just like it takes time to catch a sand flea, it takes some time to learn how to catch ghost shrimp. This bait is better for anglers who live in the area or fish often.
Where To Find Ghost Shrimp
You’ll need to invest a little money and maybe some time to build or buy a pump that will help you flush the ghost shrimp. Once you have a pump, you need to drill some holes in the sand in order to see where the ghost shrimp are hiding.
You’ll find some promising spots to trap ghost shrimp, and you can pump up water to force them out of their burrows. Do this on mud flats or near the surf where there is a lot of sand.
How To Ghost Shrimp
Rig ghost shrimp the same way you would regular shrimp. Start by dismantling the shrimp by removing the tail section. Then, attach them to a hook and hide the shank. Always expose the hook point.
5. Sand Fleas aka Mole Crabs
Sand fleas, mole crabs, or sand crabs are very plentiful crustaceans, and they are just the right size to fit inside a sheepshead’s mouth. Sand fleas are excellent bait for all kinds of fish, including sheepshead. However, you have to catch the fleas yourself, which may be a bit of a learning curve.
Where To Find Sand Fleas
Sand fleas often live in colonies, and you’ll find them in the swash zone on the beach. You can find colonies hanging out on the shores of passing towns. You can catch them with your hands or by using little nets and other tools, but using a sand flea rake is great. It’ll make handling them easier. It’s important to be fast and stealthy when trying to scoop up a mole crab for collecting because they are very wary.
Do not expect to store sand fleas in a container for very long, maybe a day or two. Sand crabs pee so much, which will make them die if they sit in a container for a long time. So, put the sand fleas in a large container so their juices can flow from them. It’s easy to do this by stacking 2 buckets together and putting some sand in the bottom of each. Then, place your containers on top of each other so that any liquids that collect in them will drain away from them. It’s best to periodically rinse them out with seawater.
Be careful with a sandflea rake since a large wave can hit you and slam the sharp aluminum edge into your shins. As a result, you can suffer a nasty cut to your shins.
How To Rig Sand Fleas
Fishing sand fleas with a fishing pole attached to a digger claw to entice a sheepshead to take them is as simple as inserting a #1 hook into the claw and then pulling the bait off the shell. Some anglers hook them up on the other end of the line, but it doesn’t matter much. When you’re using any of the baits that we have listed, you can use a Carolina rig, a knocker rig, or a piece of split shot to set up your rig.
6. Shrimp For Sheepshead
If you fish in saltwater for a very long time, you’ll probably know that everything eats shrimp. Sheepsheads are no exception, as they absolutely love shrimp. Shrimp, which are generally found in the form of live or dead shrimp, are good bait for freshwater fish too. It is also proved that the world record for largest sheepshead, weighing over 21 pounds, was caught on a live shrimp. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to catch a sheepshead by using shrimp because since everything will eat it, it may be difficult to get it on a hook before some other fish eats it.
Where To Find Bait Shrimp
There are some natural ways to catch shrimp, but you’ll have to buy them live from a local bait shop. Fresh shrimp can be purchased in local bait shops, fish markets, or grocery stores.
How To Rig Shrimp
When fishing for live shrimp, fish with smaller baits since they are usually very small. If you catch some shrimp that are too big (more than 1.5 inches), you may want to cut them in half to be used as fresh dead bait. For live shrimp, consider using a small #1 hook and running it down the tail and away from the body, covering most of the hook shank completely and leaving the hook point exposed.
Likewise, if you have fresh dead shrimp, just rig the bait the same way you rig live shrimp. Both the head and the tail of dead shrimp are good as bait for baitfish. Rig both baits similarly – bury the hook shank to hide it. Fish your shrimp on a rig that lets you easily fish a couple of feet away using a short mono leader, a jig head, a knocker rig, or a piece of split shot attached to the head of the bait. You need a long mono leader or a mono braid that can handle about 15 lbs. of bait.
7. Mussels for Sheepshead
It’s possible that some of the mussels that you buy at bait stores won’t be the same ones that you find at stores that sell seafood for people to eat. But all of them should work. Mussels are a great bait for sheepshead, but getting them to stay on the hook is a great challenge. One solution is to use an elastic thread like Elastic Invisible Thread. You’ll probably want to use some type of thread that will keep the hook secure. You don’t need knots to tie fishing threads because the elastic thread is very strong. You can wrap it around several times and break off the ends.
Where To Find Mussels
Mussels can be had for free. Just dig up some rocks or piles of rocks to find them. Check bridge pilings or rocky areas at low tide for mussels. Grab a bucket or a bag and collect mussels from any hard surface near the waterline.
You can also buy mussels fresh at a local fish market. Alternatively, fish for gooey baits by using an elastic fishing string to secure the flesh of the bait to your hook. No tying a knot is required when using this thread. Just wrap an elastic thread around a soft bait, and when it’s full, break it off.
How To Rig Mussels
If you want to eat the inside of a mussel, simply pop the mussel shell open with a large knife and carefully split it apart. Using a sharp knife or the back of a long finger, carefully cut through the mussel to remove the middle part. Using a good hook that is sized for pulling up a good quality sheepshead, keep pulling out the flesh until the hook is full.
For the best outcome, use a bait thread to secure the mussels to the hook. This will prevent the bait from coming off during a cast. It keeps the bait in place by securing it to the hook. Using an elastic thread, wrap it around the hook 15-20 times, then break it.
8. Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs are very good for baiting many different species. However, some people don’t want to deal with pulling them out of their shells because that is what you will need to do before you can drop them down to catch some sheepshead. Note that the hermit crabs you catch and use to bait fish are not the same ones you buy at a local gift shop or a pet store. Hermit crabs, which you can catch for your pet, are creatures that live on the land, but bait crabs, which you can catch in the sea, are creatures that live in the water.
Where To Find Hermit Crabs
It is thought that some bait shops sell hermit crabs, but it’s hard to get them. So, you will have to hunt them on your own. You can get them by dropping a crab pot near a dock and then coming back later. If you can find rocks near beaches or pass signs, you should find hermit crabs below them. They can also be found in lakes and rivers that are a bit calmer, and they are also found further inside pass systems. These little guys are harmless, and you can easily catch them by hand. Hermit crabs can live a couple of days in a bucket of water.
How To Rig Hermit Crabs
Try to get a hermit crab to come out of its shell by pulling it out with your hands. If that doesn’t work, you can try smashing the shell with a hammer or a hard rock or breaking it with a pair of pliers.
To rig a hermit crab, simply put a hook through its body, beginning from the tail, and start fishing. If you want to rig a bait that keeps the fish from biting, you could wrap it in strong fishing string several times to make it more secure.
Sheepshead just loves barnacles. Sheepsheads are often spotted feeding on barnacles when you spot them in the water along bridges and piers. Barnacles are plentiful in Florida, and there are no size or bag limits on them, so you can use them as both bait and chum. I guess it would be the same everywhere else in the world.
Where To Find Barnacles
You can find barnacles in some areas of your yard, along bridges and piers, and on rocks near the water line. It is easy to collect barnacles by holding a net or a bucket under them and then using a shovel or another sort of scraper to try and knock them loose. You shouldn’t try to remove barnacles from private docks or other structures without permission. Use the smaller pieces to chum fish, and keep the larger pieces for bait. Moreover, barnacles are a great substitute for larger baits if you run out of your primary bait.
How To Rig Barnacles
Run your hook through the barnacle’s back and slowly pull the hook through the hole in the front of the barnacle. If the barnacles are very small, you can use a couple of them at a time.
Although oysters are a good bait for sheepshead, you must be careful about following local laws. Oysters are more highly regulated in the United States than other options on this list. Oysters in Florida have a certain season and a certain bag limit. And they also have a certain size limit. There are actually some shellfish harvesting areas in Florida that you should be aware of.
If you follow the necessary laws and regulations, oysters can be used as very effective bait for sheepshead. The regulations around oysters make it seem too troublesome for anglers to enjoy eating oysters.
Where to Find Oysters
You’ll usually find oysters all around flats that are made of sand and mud. They’ll be well below high-tide lines and just as easy to find as shipwreck flotsam that you can find in the water.
How to Rig Oysters
Some anglers actually rig a Carolina rig to catch sheepshead. Carolina rigs are known as sliding sinkers because they consist of an egg sinker that slides up and down the line. Put a couple of egg sinkers on the line and hook a swivel to it.
Expert Tips for Catching Sheepshead
Sheepshead fish are fun to catch in the winter because they are plentiful, easy to catch, and delicious. It is easy to confuse a sheepshead with a black drum because both have similar markings on their bodies; they have the same black and white stripes on their bodies. However, looking at their mouths, you can tell the difference between sheepshead and drum. Sheepsheads have teeth resembling molars, while drums have rough sandpaper on the gums but no real teeth. The primary food for sheepshead is shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and oysters, which make the meat taste delicious and succulent. Most sheep are caught between 2-3 pounds, but some will weigh over 6lbs.
When and Where to Catch Sheepshead
When sheepsheads are in the waters, you can catch them all year long. The months that they are easiest to catch are December through April. Although fishing for sheepshead can be done all year round, they are concentrated during the colder months on the docks and jetties in the Gulf Coast areas and deep seas. You can catch sheepshead fishing from shore or a boat, but having a boat allows you to get closer to the fish.
It is best to fish for sheepshead during the incoming and outgoing tides. Try fishing on days when the tide is high (around midday). High tides cover these structures with water, and the tides move delicious crustaceans right past the fish.
Sheepsheads are plentiful in the inshore waters, but anglers should also be aware that there are many ledges, wrecks, and artificial reefs in the area. It is very common for people to find these structures in coastal areas, and sometimes they are very close to the shore. Late winter and spring are excellent times to catch sheepshead.
Normally it is best to fish for sheepshead from December until April because the fish are very active when congregating to spawn. So, you can catch them all the time along the Gulf Coast, but they won’t be as crowded and eager to feed as you will find them during the springtime.
Use The Right Rods and Reels for Sheepshead
Choose a rod that has a medium action and a very light touch, so you feel the delicate bite of the sheepshead. Choose a spinning reel that is mid-sized, and a 7 foot medium action spinning rod. You can use mono or braided lines, but many anglers prefer braided lines because they give a much more sensitive bite. Any braided fishing line will work, but you’ll love the Power Pro Super Slick 8 because it is softer, doesn’t often throw knots when tied, and is the heaviest.
Choose the Right Rigs and Bait
You will almost always find experienced anglers using a circle hook on all the fish they are fishing for. But since you are going to hook a small sheepshead and because of the structure of the mouth on the sheepshead and the size of the molars on their teeth, you will need a very small J hook to hold the bait. Use either of the Owner’s Gorilla Lights or Flyliner Live Bait Hooks in sizes 1, 2, and 4. If you are looking for something really small, something no larger than a dime would be fine.
You can also use a short Carolina Rig, which is essentially a small slip lead rig. You can make it as short as 3ft to 10ft depending on the species. And since you’re fishing with a small round hook, you’ll want to be fishing on a long leader. When fishing sheepshead, you will need a 12-18 inches long leader and a J Hook. But if your leader is too long, you will never feel the bite as sheep just swim up and crush their prey.
You will also want to use a high-quality leader made from a very strong material called fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is invisible to fish because it is as dense as salt water and does not reflect light, which means you can fool sheepsheads into biting. You will need a small variety of lead sizes, maybe a lead that is 1/2oz up to 4oz. You want to have the lightest lead you can get but keep it just next to the structure you are fishing around.
Use Live Bait for Sheepshead Whenever Possible
It is very uncommon to catch sheepshead while using artificial lures to lure them in, but it does happen very rarely. Some fish really prefer to eat live bait than hunt for bigger fish. Sheepshead is one of those species. They are often caught eating live bait, dead bait, and frozen bait. Live and frozen shrimp are the most commonly caught baits for sheepshead.
I recommend live and frozen shrimp and mole crabs, also known as sand fleas, for baiting sheepshead. Live shrimp are the most widely used bait for sheepshead. They are available in just about every bait shop. Determined anglers prefer to catch sand fleas and fiddler crabs instead of shrimp. Although these baits are commonly available, the angler must purchase them. Anglers can also catch a large variety of oyster crabs and worms by simply walking around rocks at low tide.
Choose the Correct Sheepshead Fishing Tackle
It is not necessary to have any special tackle for fishing for sheepshead. Anglers fishing for sheepshead will need just the same inshore fishing tackle they use to catch speckled trout and redfish. You will need a 7-foot-long medium action spinning rod and a 2500-3000 series reel to catch sheepshead. Most anglers prefer braided lines because of their increased sensitivity, as sheepshead may bite very lightly.
Anglers fishing for sheepsheads that are going to be caught in areas with very heavy structures may need to use heavier tackle and conventional light gear. By using Daiwa Black Gold/St. Croix Triumph rods and reels to catch sheepshead, you can get a great deal. Alternatively, you can use basic bottom fishing tackle for targeting sheepshead.
If you are having difficulties finding small fish, try using a variety of egg sinkers, bank sinkers ranging in size from one-quarter ounce to two ounces split shot, and live bait hooks in several sizes. If you need to use leader material, select some that are available for use in several different applications.
Always Hide the Hook
Sheepsheads are very fussy and will only eat what seems natural to them. Hooks that are short shanks like a #1/0 or a #1/0 circle will work best for most applications. Some anglers love circle hooks, and a #3/0 circle hook is good for all applications. Anglers using bait fish should try to hide as much of the hook as possible. This is easy with shrimp as the hook can be easily threaded onto the shank of the fish and then put back into the bait. Anglers who use sand fleas or fiddlers should try to hide as much of the hook as possible in the bait.
Use the Correct Fishing Sinker Weight
When fishing bottom, it is better to use less weight to get the bait to the bottom. It will be more natural for anglers to get their bait to the bottom slowly, as the bait slowly falls through the water column and settles on the bottom. Anglers fishing in shallow water that is very current-free will do fine with just a few split shots. But fishing in passes and inlets with a lot of current will require several ounces of bait.
Sliding egg sinkers are usually the most popular sinker among experienced anglers targeting sheepshead. Consider sinkers that slide easily through the water and allow lines to pass freely while the fish move in the opposite direction with the bait. They can also be utilized in chicken rigs or “high-low” rigs. However, bank sinkers are good for those who drift and fish in strong currents.
Target Areas With Structures
Sheepsheads are very seldom found far from a structure or some type of cover. You will rarely find them on open water or on grassy flats. Bridges and fishing docks are well-known for producing plenty of fish. Also productive are structures such as oyster bars, rocks and ledges, artificial reefs, and jetties.
Current also affects where fish are located on a structure. Fish generally head toward the current when they are feeding. This is true whether you are stationary or just moving about. Sometimes, groups of sheepshead form and move around together in search of food. Therefore, anglers should not fish for too long if there is no catching action.
This is especially true when fishing docks. Fish can be landed very quickly by fishing docks. Approximately ten docks may provide very little, but by the time the 11th dock is full, there will be plenty of fish!
Use the Correct Leader Diameter
Even though some anglers are not afraid to use a lighter leader, there are times when they will need to switch to a lighter leader. This is particularly true when the water is clear, which occurs during the colder months. A 30-pound leader that is made from fluorocarbon works well in most cases.
When the bite is slow, it is possible to drop the leader down to a lighter leader of 20 pounds. This will result in more fish being caught. If the wind blows hard, anglers who are fishing strong structures may need to switch to a heavier leader. For example, if the wind churns up the water, heavy leaders may need to be up to 40 or 50 lbs.
Sheepshead Bottom Fishing Rigs
Several different rigs work well for fishing sheepshead. This rig is known as a sliding sinker rig and is commonly used when looking for sheepshead. It consists of an egg-shaped sinker with a hole in it that a line can pass through. After the sinker is attached to the leader, a swivel is tied to hold the hook. The hook is then tied to a 2-foot piece of leader. Fishing with this rig allows the sheepshead to easily grab a bait and walk away with it. They do not have to feel any resistance to doing that.
A knocker rig is similar to the one that fishes a sinker with a swivel in it. It is used to put baits in the water to cause them to swim away. The only difference is that the leader goes through the sinker and then through a swivel. This gives the angler some extra distance to cast the hook. The weight of the bait can then be put right on the eye of the hook and moved away from the mouth of the fish. There are two advantages to using a rig like this. One, the bait is put right on the bottom of the pond with the weight. Placing weights near your hooks’ eyes will allow you to easily fish through snags.
Another ineffective fishing rig that sheepshead anglers fish is the high low rig. Most anglers are familiar with using this rig. Hook up your sinker to the bottom of the leaderboard and add some weight to it. Fishing this rig can be very effective for fishing for sheepshead. Hooks are tied horizontally above the sinkers. They are then placed at various positions around the water column. Anglers using this rig can fish different baits in the water column. It is a great way to present yourself vertically. This is also great when drifting to a likely sheepshead fishing area.
Consider Frozen Baits
Anglers will find that sometimes sheepsheads are not really all that fussy. Sometimes, shrimp boats are stuck, and it is difficult for fishermen to get out and fish live bait. Fishing for sheepshead with live bait is preferable, but even frozen shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas will give you a nice catch. It is important to thaw a small amount of frozen bait at a time while fishing. If you throw a completely frozen bait, it will break easily. On the flipside, bait left to thaw too long can become soft and break the hook easily.
How to Catch Sheepshead Like a Real Pro
There are many good places to fish for sheepshead from the shore or a boat. Anglers who fish from boats are protected from being chummed by the strong currents that come from the water. Fishing from a boat means fishing through a chum slick because crabs live in the rocks and pilings. Fishing from a boat lets you reach several good locations along the coast, including the coast guard station, the docks on the south side of the bay between Fort Walton and Destin Beach, the harbor, and most docks with deeper water access in the bayous.
Sheepshead is very much interested in the structure that they are fishing. Sheepshead likes to hang out near structures. They enjoy swimming near bridges, jetties, and oyster bars. They also roam around ledges and rocks and feed almost exclusively on small fish and other crustaceans. Fishing with live bait, dead bait, or frozen baitfish on the bottom near a structure can net big fish.
Fishing with stout hooks works well for catching sheepshead. It is over 23,000 words long and goes into great detail about fishing with many different kinds of lures and fish species. Sheepshead fish are found on the Gulf Coast and along the East Coast as far north as Canada. But the most productive waters are found in North Carolina and Texas. Fishing for sheepshead should be done during the cooler months since this is when they spawn. In the northern part of their range, sheep tend to come up and spawn in the summertime.
Anglers all over the country have their own favorite hooks for fishing at the bottom. Circle hooks work well for anglers with good patience and have not tried to force themselves to set a hook. Anglers also enjoy fishing with live bait hooks; if the hook is strong enough, it will catch fish.
Proven Sheepshead Hooking Techniques
It is said that anglers should set their hooks just before fish start to bite. Sometimes a big bite may occur at the very last minute. Of course, it’s an exaggeration. But sheepsheads are known for being very light biters. There are some techniques that will help anglers become more successful in converting their baits into fish. If you are targeting sheepshead, your chances of hooking a fish will be lower than with most other fish species.
Try casting a small bait very deep into a shallow area to catch some sheepshead. This will allow it to settle before setting the hook. Anglers should then remove all slack from the fishing line and keep the bait still by keeping the rod tip low. Sometimes you will get a little bite by making small taps on the surface. When sheep begin to bite the bait, it is very important that they do not move it.
The roosters will likely push the bait up, but at a point, the roosters will leave the bait behind, and the angler will just need to watch as the rod bends. At this point, you should move very quickly while slowly raising your rod. This is often the best way to catch and hook a good-sized sheepshead.
Tide Considerations when Fishing Sheepshead
Like most saltwater fishing techniques, a good tide is crucial to get fish to the bottom of a structure. Current flow can cause fish to move around a structure. Anchor upstream of any structure you are fishing for and wait for the tide to come in. You can then cast back to the current to get some bait to attract the fish. This will allow you to fish more easily and make a more natural presentation. It also lets the snagged fish continue down the current to try and pull other fish away from the structure.
Passages and inlets are a great place to catch some big sheepshead. Sheepsheads are plentiful in Florida since there are enormous structures in the passes where they can spawn. But if a strong current is going, it can be extremely difficult to fish the passes and inlets. Anchoring is hard, and it will take a lot of weight to get your bait to the bottom of the channel. There is also the safety factor, as these can be very busy boats mooring up and going around, particularly on weekends. The best time to fish passes is when the current slows down enough to allow you to easily fish and anchor.
It may not seem obvious, but sheepsheads actually eat a very wide variety of baits. Sheepshead will eat many other types of bait, including fish you have caught yourself with an artificial lure. There are a few more choices that I didn’t include on this list, such as sea urchins or sea worms, but it’s always best to stick with one of the choices from the list. Remember to have plenty of bait, as sheepsheads are great at taking baits.