Sheepshead Species Guide | What, Where, How to Catch

What is a Sheepshead?

Sheepshead are a saltwater fish that grows up to 30 inches in length.  These silverish/grey fish can be identified by their vertical black stripes and sharp dorsal spines.  Most notably, you’ll be able to spot a Sheepshead by its “people teeth”…I’m serious, they have teeth that are very similar to those of a human. Oftentimes, anglers confuse Sheepshead with Black Drum.  However, the two fish are not even in the same family.  Again, check out those pearly whites.

What do Sheepshead eat?  Where to find Sheepshead fish?

Where to find Sheepshead? They are commonly found from in the Southeastern US, but as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Brazil.  Sheepshead are most often found around any structure with barnacles or oyster shells.  Port walls, docks, piers, and other man made structures are frequent haunts of this delicious saltwater species.  Fishing for Sheepshead at night is also a very common practice, you'll find it's just like daytime fishing, only darker.  While that sounds like an over-simplification, it is true.  You'll find the fish in the same areas, and target them with the same baits, more or less.

What do Sheepshead eat? Sheepshead primarily feed on oysters, clams, barnacles, fiddler crabs, and other crustaceans.  Their hard mouth helps them crush the shells of their prey with ease.


How to catch Sheepshead?  Sheepshead fishing tackle.  Rods and reels for Sheepshead fishing.

The best rig for Sheepshead fishing is a very subjective thing.  However, there are a few good starting points that we'll discuss.  A good starter rod would be a 6'6" medium heavy, fast action rod.  This rod, paired with a quality 3000 to 4000 series reel and braided line will make for an excellent Sheepshead fishing rod.  When it comes to baits, you'll do better if you closely match what they're feeding on anyway.  Sheepshead feed on crustaceans, crabs, urchins, etc., so using natural and sometimes artificial versions of these can produce fish.  That said, natural bait is going to out-perform artificial bait for Sheepshead, many times over.  

When rigging your natural baits, a good starting point is a Carolina rig with a 2/0 to 3/0 circle hook.  Another solid option is a weighted jig head.  Jig heads will work well with your natural bait, especially when targeting larger fish or fishing deeper and around more dense structure.