The cast was a foot right of perfect, and the Boat Monkey float settled in the center of the concentric rings forming around its landing. A sea gull swooped down to check it out, only to turn away perhaps repulsed by the orange bobber —which suddenly was gone, jerked completely out of sight below the surf.

“Got one,” I hollered at Billy Grantham of Biloxi, who had promised a good March nearshore trip. “Not sure what though, but feels pretty good on this light tackle. Hope it’s edible.”

The 6-foot spinning boat was bent in an arc, and the 6-pound mono was stretched tight, even as the small reel gave line when the fish surged. It had been the first cast of the day.

“Just keep tight,” Grantham said. “Ain’t nothing down there he can snag you on to break you off. He’ll quit resisting in a minute.”

Right on schedule, I could feel the fish turning and, reluctantly, coming toward me. Grantham had the net and had moved by my side in the stern of his 22-foot center console.

“Let’s see what you got,” he said, dipping the rubber net below the surface, a target for me to guide the fish. When it got in reach, Grantham made a quick swoop and lifted the fish over the gunwale.

“You wanted edible, you got it; look at the thick slab shoulders on that sheepshead,” Grantham said. “About 6 pounds; he’ll eat good, baked whole with some tomatoes, onions and garlic.

“That’s a bonus catch today. We don’t usually catch sheepshead in this area, but when we do, we usually catch several. They usually prefer deeper cover in March, like bridge pilings and reefs. I do catch them occasionally here behind Deer Island, but it’s