percoid fish

Sheepshead (fish)

See also: California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher). and Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens).
The sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, is a marine fish that grows to 30 in (760 mm), but are common from 5 to 8 in. They are deep and compressed in body shape with 5 to 6 dark bars on the side of the body over a gray background. They have very sharp spines along the dorsal. Their diet consists of bivalves and crustaceans such as clams, oysters, barnacles, and fiddler crabs. They have a very hard mouth with several rows of stubby teeth which help crush prey.


Although Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, was named after the fish, they are very much a southern species. Today their range extends from the Mid-Atlantic to Texas. During the winters, many anglers in these states will head to the end of pier to fish for sheepshead. As sheepshead are crustacean and bivalve feeders, favorite baits include shrimp, sand fleas (molecrabs), and clams. Sheepshead have a knack for stealing bait, so a very small hook is necessary. Locating sheepshead in a boat is not very difficult: look for rocky bottoms or places with obstruction.


The sheepshead is great for eating. Because of its crustacean diet, its flesh is nice and sweet. It is best if filleted and panfried.


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