Friday, March 20, 2009

Article, I found and dusted off..since the wind won't stop blowing!

7-striped Jetty Snappers
by Capt. Dave Sipler

The term "seven striped jetty snapper" has become synonymous with the fish called a Sheepshead, here in N.E. Florida.

Many moons ago I wrote articles every month for what was the first local yokal fishing magazine in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Published by Mike Patterson of Atlantic beach, Florida, also an avid fisherman.

Back in those days when I wrote an article about fishing the Mayport Jetties, I'd refer to the Sheepshead that patrol the big jetty boulders as "seven striped Jetty Snappers".

They have the same broad appearance as a genuine Red Snapper that's a local offshore reef favorite. And they have seven black and white stripes. Which is also something most angler's don't even realize. "It's the ole so close to your nose you can't see it syndrome."

The reason I can say that is because, I asked "how many stripes are on a Sheepshead?" As a trivia question when Pelican and myself hosted our radio show on Saturday mornings.

The responses we got were really funny. Many people just didn't know. But one thing we did learn from a caller was, since the colors of the fish are black and white, is that white stripes on a black fish or black stripes on a white fish.

Our two hour fishing show on ESPN sure did fly by that morning, as we joked about the why's, how many, and what for.

Either way, "I coined the phrase!"

And the reason I can say that is because I never heard it till I wrote it myself.
Today, many local outdoors writers are using the term to describe a Sheepshead.

I started to notice this during the week of our last El Cheapo Sheepshead tournament held in Mayport. By the Jacksonville offshore sport fishing club.

The tournament is like any other fishing tournament. But the unique thing about it is, it's the only Sheepshead fishing tournament in the world that we know of.

I have a big time love-hate relationship with seven striped jetty snappers. I love catching them. I love it when my charter customers catch them. But I absolutely hate cleaning them.

There's nothing like navigating giant dorsal spines, heavily scaled skin, and a extra heavy duty rib cage, versus cleaning a nice 3 pound Speckled Trout or Flounder. That's easy and yields twice if not 3 times the fillet, for fish of equal size.
That's right. Sheepshead have one poor yield of filleted meat. I don't care how good of a fish cleaner you are. The yield of fillet versus unusable carcase is probably 20% to 80%. Twenty percent being what you get to eat, out of the whole fish.

Around these parts (N.E. Florida) Sheepshead reign as kings of the winter time fish. And I find it so very funny that regions of the Gulf coast could probably put our little area to shame in sheer numbers. And one of the reasons why is they are junk fish there!

Talk to any Texan, and you won't hear passionate, loosing sleep over thoughts from them, as you will around here. For some reason, N.E. Floridians are obsessed with them.

Take any given fall, winter, or spring day at the Mayport jetties, and you'll see boat after boat lining the jetty rocks all fishing for them. I call these folks the "sheep herders".

And while talking to them they will quickly admit that the yield of meat versus head, backbone, ribcage, and tail is ridicules. But the very next words will be, "but they are so good."

I guess I can't get over the bad taste in my mouth that was brought on by a charter customer I had once.

We went out while the Sheepshead were spawning, and congregated in one area of the river just inside the jetties. Using fresh cut pieces of giant chowder clams the size of softballs, we caught plenty of Sheepshead. The state limit is way out of wack at 15 fish per person, I believe.

We easily boxed 30. Mind you these are not small fish. Spawners range from 5 pounds to 10 pounds. The fish box on my boat at that time was jam packed.

As usual I clean my customers fish for tips. That's how I make back the money for standing and cleaning fish for hours on the boat that isn't part of the agreed charter price. Supposedly.

Well, I cleaned those 30 fish. It took me four hours. I was wore out, cut up and spined. The boat was a mess. I was a mess.

After bagging up all the fillets my customer said, "you want some of these?" I replied, "no, I'm good". They dropped the bags in their cooler, paid me my balance for the day and walked up the dock.

I stood there speachless!

Not a single dime more did they give me for cleaning all those Sheepshead.

I could have gone out and done a 1/2 day charter for the time it took to clean all those nasty Sheepshead. Yeah, I could have made another $300.

I guess the "ya want some of these?" was supposed to be my tip.

So there ya go. "I have learned now." And now we don't keep more than two or three Sheepshead on a days trip, if I'm going to clean them. If you want to clean them, we'll keep as many as you like.
Looking back....the monster ones caught stick in my mind more than the stuffed fish boxes.

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