Sheepshead

The sheepshead is a medium sized inshore marine fish species common around piers and similar objects.
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Where and When?

Suitable areas of the eastern seaboard of North and South America are the natural range of sheepshead, from Nova Scotia in the north southwards to Brazil. There are, however, areas such as Bermuda and some Caribbean Islands where the species is absent and others, such as parts of the Texas coastline, where it is abundant. It usually inhabits shallow “coastal waters” but rarely appears to enter low salinity areas such as estuaries and lagoons. It can be common in some harbours and around piers and similar objects where it can find cover from predators and also much of its food. While there are many places along the shore where it may be caught there are few places where it is specifically targeted. Larger specimens appear to be caught more often in cooler parts of its range while tropical areas seem to contain generally smaller fish. sheepshead may be caught throughout the year and also through the day and night.

About Sheepshead

Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) fish has a silvery, vertically compressed body with five or six broad, dark, perpendicular bars down its side. The reason for its name is unclear but it is suggested that it is due to the similarities between its teeth and those of sheep. Humans also have similar teeth with cutting teeth in front and “crunching” teeth in the rear. The sheepshead can attain 91 centimetres (3 feet) in length and a mass of about 9.6 kilograms (21 lb), but the “normal” size range caught is between 30 and 50 centimetres and 1.5 to 2 kilograms. It is a fish of inshore coastal waters with a strong attraction for structures such as piers, docks and reefs. It feeds mostly on bottom living organisms including invertebrates such as crabs, shellfish and worms as well as free swimming ones like shrimps. They can be locally abundant but numbers have decreased in some regions, such as around New York, probably through high fishing pressure. There are recent indications, however, that abundance is again increasing in some areas. The species does not appear to undertake migrations and spawning takes place inshore.

How to Catch?

Most sheepshead are caught from the shore, pier or from small boats or kayaks. Using a small boat, it is useful to locate some structure, such as a pile of rocks, and cast towards it using light tackle and smallish hooks. This species is well known for being a difficult fish to hook properly and often “steals” the bait. Chumming, the placing of pieces of food or other attractant where you intend to fish, before you fish or while fishing, is a common and useful practice. Most fish are caught on conventional natural baits using fairly light tackle. It is important, however, to be able to hold the fish from swimming into the pier or pile of rocks after being hooked. Light “drop shot” tackle or “bass type” plastics can be used to good effect if care is taken to avoid the structure around which the fish is almost certainly swimming.