|Where to find them
and how to catch them ...
The sheepshead is a member of the porgy and seabream species which
are among the 120 species that make up the Sparidae family. The Sparidae have a worldwide
distribution in temperate and tropical waters, but are most common in warm coastal seas.
The sheepshead is a large porgy. It reaches a
maximum weight of about 20 pounds. Itís coloration is silvery to
yellowish white, with an olive-brown back and five or six dark
slightly diagonal bars along each side. It is found close inshore,
often in the brackish zones of estuaries. It uses itís flat long
teeth to crush mollusks and crabs and to scrap barnacles from rocks
These species are primarily taken by bottom fishing structure and wreck fishing. The
fisherman should look for sheepshead along irregular bottom, wrecks, reefs and structure
not too far from shore. Sometimes the sheepshead is so fast in taking live bait that it is
difficult to hook. One exciting way to catch this bait thief is to heavily chum an area
with shrimp or bits of shellfish. After the sheepshead have begun to feed, cast with a
small ľ ounce jig. On light tackle this is a thrilling and sporting fish to catch. Use a
medium /medium heavy class rod (12 to 20 pound) with a baitcast or spinning reel with 12
to 20 pound mono line. Around reefs and wrecks, use an 4 foot long heavier leader, with a
single hook or a 2-hook bottom rig, using hook sizes from #6 to 2/0. For bait, sheepshead
do not readily take artificial lures. They are best fished for with live bait or cut or
whole natural baits. These include crab, shrimps, mussels, clams, worms, sand eels, cut
strips of mackerel, cuttlefish, squid or octopus.
In the northern part of Florida, sheepshead are found near navigation markers,
pilings, rocks and inlet jetties. The best time of the year to catch them is the winter on
the ebb and slack tides. During the spawning season, which occurs in the Spring,
sheepshead assemble into schools and move into shallow water to deposit their eggs. Many
are caught at this time also. The largest sheepshead are usually caught in the northern
In southern Florida, they can be found along inshore reefs, inside
inlets, deep channels and along mangroves in the Florida bay area. Here the best time to
fish for sheepshead are fall and winter during ebb and slack tides.
After you catch them check our Captain Cooks Recipes on ways to prepare them!