Sheepshead are a saltwater fish known by several different names. Their scientific name is Archosargus probatocephalus. Saltwater fishermen will refer to sheepshead by different names. These are the most common: Convict Fish, Convicts, Sheeps, Seabream, and Southern Sheeps. No matter what you call a sheepshead, they are a highly sought after inshore species of fish.
Sheepshead are one of the most recognized fish in the ocean. This is because of two attributes: their dark vertical stripes and human like teeth. Sheepshead fish are a very boney. They possess sharp dorsal and anal fins that are strong and sharp spines. Their body is a silver color with 5 to 6 bars going down their side. This is what gives the sheepshead the name convict fish. The teeth of the sheepshead reminds anglers of a human mouth. They have incisors, molars and rounded grinders. This gives them the perfect mouth to scrape barnacles, crush crabs or other mollusks. It is this boney mouth that makes them hard to hook and requires a hook that is placed in the side of their mouth in the soft tissue. Sheepshead do not have any barbels on their lower jaw like their cousins the black drum.
Sheepshead average size will range from 12" to 26". They can reach a size of up to 30". The average weight of these fish will range from a couple pounds all the way up to 22 pounds.
Sheepshead are a common fish found in coastal waters or gulf of Mexico around structure like jetties, rock pilings, docks, piers, sea walls, and mangrove roots. Another area anglers will target sheepshead are inshore reefs and close offshore wrecks. Many of the juvenile sheepshead will remain inshore around grass flats, oyster shoals, and mud bottoms. A good rule to remember, when fishing for sheepshead is to find a rocky bottom.
Sheepshead live a life on shrimp, mollusks, plant material on rocks, barnacles, crustaceans and small fish. One of their most sought after meals are fiddler crabs. This is one of the reasons many anglers will use fiddler crabs when fishing for them. Many sheepshead will scrape barnacles from pylons and other sea walls. They use their teeth on shelled prey to crack open oyster shells, clams and other muscles. Any type of crab like rock crabs and blue crabs will be targeted by sheepshead. Shrimp do not stand a chance when it comes to sheepshead teeth. It is a diet on invertebrates, small vertebrates, and some plants that allow for sheepshead to have such tasty meat.
Adult sheepshead move offshore the United States to inshore reefs and near wrecks to breed in the winter months and early spring. The big breeding females will move inshore during the spring. It is during this time that they are fun to catch and often the largest sheepshead of the year.