The name ‘sheepshead’ is derived from the mouthful of massive, protruding teeth, which resembles those of a sheep.
How to identify a Sheepshead
The teeth distinguish the sheepshead from a juvenile black drum, which shares a similar coloration pattern. Sheepshead have seven vertical and very prominent black stripes which stand out against a dull white, gray, or yellowish background. The body of this fish is oval shaped with a blunt snout and small mouth. The dorsal and anal fins have very sharp but short spines and the pectoral fins are relatively long. The tail is shallowly forked.The teeth of the sheepshead include well defined incisors, molars, and grinders. There are incisor-like teeth in the front of the jaw and there are molars in the back of the jaw. These heavy, strong teeth allow the sheepshead to crush and grind the various shellfish that this species feeds on. This fish will also use its impressive teeth to scrape barnacles from pilings and rocks.Although the sheepshead can reach a maximum size of almost 30 inches in length and weigh over 20 pounds, most fish are in the two to eight pound range with average lengths of 15-20 inches
Where to catch Sheepshead
Sheepshead are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south through the Gulf of Mexico. This fish is a nearshore species that is commonly found along structure such as rocks, pilings, piers, jetties, mangroves, as well as at the mouths of tidal creeks. During the late winter and early spring, this fish will venture offshore to spawn. When not spawning, the sheepshead will seek out warmer areas of water and may even venture into freshwater rivers during the winter months. Juvenile fish can be found in tidal flats and over dark, mud bottoms where the water is quickly warmed by the sun. The following list includes additional details on where to catch this fish: