The Sheepshead fish is yet another commonly caught game fishes, known for their fine, quality meat. Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) belongs to the Sparidae family. Its standalone feature is its teeth , which resembles that of an human. They are also known as convict fish, sheephead, sheepshead seabream, and southern sheeps head
About Sheepshead fish
The sheepshead is a flat,deep, oval fish with a compressed body. They have a greenish-silver body with five or six dark bars seen on the side of the body. It has a forked caudal fin, it has sharp and stout dorsal,anal spine. It has a blunt snout and almost horizontal mouth has teeth which resemble that of human dentition with well-formed incisors, molars, grinders.
They use their strong three rows of teeth to crush the shell of its prey.The posterior nostril is slit-like in appearance. They feed on invertebrates, small vertebrates and on plants at times. Their diet include oysters, clams, and other bivalves, and barnacles, fiddler crabs, and other crustaceans.
Average size of sheepshead fish
It grows to an average size of 14-18 inches and weighs about (0.5-3.6 Kg), maximum recorded size 76 cm (30 in) weighing about 22 pounds (9.6 kg)
Where to find sheepshead fish
The sheepshead fish are found along the coast of Nova Scotia (Canada) through the Gulf of Mexico with the densest populations occurring off southwest Florida, in the western Atlantic Ocean. Also found along the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America, south to Brazil.
They seek shelter under rock pilings, jetties, mangrove roots, piers, tidal creeks in brackish water. During the warmer months they can be spotted near spring outlets and river discharge, in the colder months they move to the freshwaters and to offshore areas for spawning.
Best live and artificial baits
When catching these big game fishes , it is always best to go for live baits. Some of the commonly used live baits are shrimp,fiddlers, small crabs, oysters, clams.
Sheepshead will readily hit slow-moving jigs tipped with these baits and, occasionally, will take the bare jig.
Pinching off the tail and threading a shrimp onto a hook or a light jig head is a better play, as it brings the hook point closer to a sheepshead’s mouth.
When using crabs as live baits ,fish the crab on a 1/0 light wire cutting point fish hook set through the very outer tip of its shell.
How to catch sheepshead fish
To catch the sheepshead fish A 7 foot medium action spinning rod match with a 3000 series reel would be perfect. Braided lines which have increased sensitivity are used by anglers to catch these fish.
Basic bottom fishing tackle is all that is required for anglers sheepshead fishing. A selection of egg sinkers and bank sinkers from one quarter ounce to 2 ounces, split shot, live bait hooks in several sizes, swivels, and several spools of leader material between 20 pound and 40 pound test are all that is required.
When bottom fishing, the first rule is to use the least weight to make the bait go to the bottom. Skidding egg sinkers are most commonly used for sheepshead fishing. They allow line to slide through as the fish moves off with the bait, feeling no resistance. They can also be used in the chicken rig or “high-low” rigs.
Commonly used fishing rigs for sheephead fish:
- Carolina rig: this rig allows the sheepshead fish to take up the bait and move without resistance. Consists of a egg sinker with a hole through which the running line goes, followed by a 2 foot piece leader and the hook.
- Knocker rig: a variation of the slider rig,in which the leader goes through the swivel after the sinker, it helps keep the bait right at the bottom.
- High low rig or chicken rig: multiple hooks are tied at various levels to a bank sinker with a leader. Used in areas where one is sure to find multiple sheepshead fishes in a single spot.
The best approach is to cast the bait out or lower to the bottom and allow it to settle. The angler should then remove all slack from the line and keep the bait motionless with the rod tip low. The bite often begins with a few subtle “taps”. It is very important not to move the bait at all while this occurs.
When the fish begin to move off with the bait, the angler should quickly and slowly raise the rod. It is important to not try to set the hook.
Best time/season to catch sheepshead
During these colder months they congregate around the jetties, bridges, docks with deepwater access, and deep holes in the surf. During the summer they’re seen in shallow waters , you can fish for them from the shores.
The best time to fish for Sheepshead is during the incoming and outgoing tides -so you would want to target a day when high tide is near midday.
Tips on how to catch sheepshead
- Passes and inlets are great spots to catch sheepshead.
- Keep line tight.
- Use the bottom half of shrimp, create a scent trail for the fish.
- Cast your bait close to any cover structure that could possibly be a hide-spot for the fish.
- Be extremely vigilant, even if you feel a slight nag on the line, be alert.
- Check rig often with small movements. You will often have one on and not be aware.
- Slow-moving jigs are recommended.
- Let the bait be carried by the current of the water.
- Avoid soft tipped rods as the sheepshead bite is very difficult to feel
Keep rod tip up and make sure drag is not too loose. They can wrap around structure very quickly.