Sheepshead: Archosargus probatocephalus
||Gulf State Waters
||Atlantic State Waters
|Daily Bag Limit
||15 per person
- Legal Gear: hook and line, cast net, seine, spear or gig
- Illegal Gear: Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; Snatching prohibited
State Waters Harvest Seasons: Gulf of Mexico Atlantic
Habitat and Fishing Tips:
Sheepshead are commonly found in brackish water river mouths, bays, estuaries and tidal creeks and especially near oyster bars, buoys, channel markers, piers and bridge piles where food is plentiful. Sheepshead feed primarily on crustaceans, mollusks, barnicles and small fish. Anglers typically use light to medium weight spinning tackle with shrimp, sand fleas or small crabs as bait. Using their specially adapted (human like) incisors and crushing molars, sheepshead can be difficult to hook and have an uncanny ability to clean a hook without you knowing anything happened. When targeting sheepshead, it is very important to keep your line tight and be ready for the bite because you often get one, and only one, chance to set the hook. The food quality of sheepshead is very good, and they are one of the only fish that can smile back at you during the picture!
Can oysters and barnacles be used as bait or chum for sheepshead?
Oysters and barnacles are very, very different when it comes to regulations.
Oysters have closed seasons, bag limits, size limits and can only be legally harvested in specific shellfish harvesting areas that are classified as "approved" or "conditionally approved" and in the "open" status. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Aquaculture manages these shellfish harvesting areas.
Barnacles on the other hand do not have size limits or specified bag limits, which means that you can harvest up to 100 pounds per person per day with a recreational saltwater fishing license and you can use them to chum sheepshead. You can also simply scrape them off bridge piles and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead. Do not scrape barnacles from private docks or other private structures without permission of the property owner.
15 lb 2 oz, caught near Homosassa
Image Credit:Diane Rome Peebles