Branden Collier caught a huge sheepshead on April Fool’s Day, on his final cast and out of bait.
Collier did indeed catch a monstrous sheepshead on April 1, and it crushed the previous record by 10 ounces. Collier’s fish weighed a whopping 13 pounds, 9 ounces.
It handily beat Drew Parrish’s 14-year-old record of 12 pounds, 15 ounces set in 2001. Collier’s fish also measured 22.6 inches long with a porcine stomach girth of 24.5 inches.
But there’s more to Collier’s story than a single huge sheepshead. He caught a number of nice sheepshead that day, including another that threatened the state record at 12 pounds, 8 ounces just minutes before hooking into his record breaker.
Collier is a serious sheepshead angler, and he worked hard for the fish. He went out the night before to collect and prepare his favorite sheepshead bait, hermit crabs.
“I use hermit crabs mainly for bait,” he said. “I went to the Bayou La Batre dock and caught a half-bucket of them. I got them home and smashed them with a rock. Those sheepshead love hermit crab.”
Collier headed for the Fort Morgan peninsula and the offshore structures he knew attracted spawning sheepshead. By noon he had caught a cooler full of sheepshead and had pretty well exhausted his bait supply.
As he began heading in he stopped at one last spot and tied his boat to a beacon in 20 feet of water. That’s where he caught the 12-pound, 8-ounce sheepshead. After taking a picture of the fish and texting it to his dad, Collier had a decision to make. He was out of bait but felt there were more big fish under the beacon platform.
He pulled right up to the platform and scraped a few barnacles loose to use as bait. As so many of the best big fish stories often conclude, Collier made what he decided would be his final cast.
“I hooked a whole barnacle on the hook and pitched right in the middle of that thing,” he recounted. “I figured what the heck, it’s my last cast. That’s also where the big ones hang out.”
Collier indicated that he could see fish below and watched as his bait disappeared.
“I set the hook and it felt like I snagged a stone,” he said. “After about five minutes, I was able to just barely get her over that support and fight her out in the open.”
After landing the fish he was even more confident that he had a state record on his hands. He again texted his father an image of the fish, and his dad confirmed that his son might indeed be the new record holder.
That’s one heck of an April Fools Day. I wonder if anyone believed him if he mentioned on that day that he was the new state record sheepshead holder.
See More Record Fish: New California Record Spotted Bass Captured on Film
All images via AL.com