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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.