Archosargus probatocephalus, better known as sheepshead, are a member of the porgy family. It is said, to catch sheepshead, you have to set the hook before the fish has even touched your bait! These elusive, prison-striped thieves are delicious eating.
Sheepshead are a hearty fish. They have five to six black bars covering their gray bodies. A characteristic that stands out is their prominent “goat-like” teeth. The fish average 10 to 20 inches in length and 3 to 4 pounds. The largest of this species can be as long as 30 inches.
Sheepshead can be found as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Brazil. Their favorite habitats are bridges, jetties, piers, wrecks and reefs. They spawn near shore in late winter and early spring.
It is relatively easy to catch sheepshead as a by-catch, but to target them is a different story. A small hook must be used with the proper line and equipment. An effective way to chum for these fish is to scrape the barnacles off of bridges and piers. This can be done easily using a simple garden tool.
Artificial lures are not an effective way to catch sheepshead. Shrimp, sand fleas, fiddler crabs and mussels are all very good baits to lure these finicky fish. With their sharp gill covers and mouth full of teeth, expect some cut offs. To compound the problem, their preferred environments (bridges and piers) can cause some difficulty.
Sheepshead can be difficult to clean, but it is well worth the trouble. Their diet consists of mainly crustaceans. Their meat is flaky and has an excellent taste. With some research and plenty of practice, you will be able to catch this elusive convict.
Photo Credit: Anthony Macaluso