Can You Eat Sheepshead Fish? Are They Any Good?

Can You Eat Sheepshead?

Have you ever caught a sheepshead?

I have been asked frequently, can you eat sheepshead fish? Yes, Sheepshead is safe to eat and a delicious fish found in many coastal states. It’s a great sport fish and is often considered one of the best-tasting saltwater fish.

I will share my experience with Sheepshead, how to cook and catch it and answer any frequently asked questions related to Sheepshead.

Is Sheepshead Good to Eat?

Sheepsheads are among my favorite saltwater species to eat. They are delicious, whether fried, grilled, or blackened. 

How to Catch Sheepshead

Sheepshead can be caught year-round in most coastal states. They are commonly found around saltwater docks, jetties, reefs, and other structures.

Sheepsheads are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything. They are commonly caught using live bait, such as fiddler crabs, shrimp, or sand fleas. Cut bait can also yield positive results if you fish in the right area.

Best Bait For Catching Sheepshead

I recommend using live fiddlers crabs—the bigger the crab, the better. Not many anglers will argue against live fiddler crabs being the outright bait of choice for Sheepshead.

If your local bait shop is sold out of fiddler crabs or you have no time to catch your own, I recommend using sand fleas or mud minnows as backups.

As with any fish species, you want to select a bait that is naturally present in the area in which you are fishing. Sheepshead predominantly feeds in areas with heavy growth, such as docks, marinas, jetties, oyster beds, channel markers, mangroves, reefs, and bridges (STRUCTURE). With structure comes the growth of oysters, mussels, barnacles, and vegetation, which all attract bait.

The Rise of Sheepshead Fish

In North Carolina (my hometown), Flounder has historically been the most popular coastal species for anglers to target. Just a few years ago, the state implemented an abridged season for anglers to be able to catch and keep Flounder legally. With these recent regulations, Sheepshead has grown astronomically in popularity among inshore anglers.

Even when Flounder season was open year-round to North Carolina anglers, Sheepshead was still popular but always overshadowed by Flounder. I think Sheepshead is right up there as far as being a challenging and rewarding inshore species.

It’s not just North Carolina, where Sheepshead is a popular fish for inshore Fishing. You can find Sheepshead and the Gulf of Mexico along the east coast of the US, especially during winter.

With all this opportunity for catching Sheepshead, I want to share my favorite recipes for cooking Sheepshead, including fried, grilled, and blackened options.

How to Cook Sheepshead (My Favorite Recipes)

Blackened Sheepshead Fish on Plate

Fried Sheepshead

Ingredients:

-1 pound of sheepshead fillets

-1 cup of milk

-1 egg

-1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup of cornmeal

-1 teaspoon of salt

-1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

-1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

-vegetable oil for frying

Instructions:

1. Preheat oil in a large skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. Combine milk and egg in a bowl, and whisk well.

3. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a separate bowl.

4. Dip fillets in the milk mixture, then coat them with flour.

5. Fry fillets in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

6. Drain on paper towels.

Grilled Sheepshead

Ingredients:

-1 pound of sheepshead fillets

-1/4 cup of lemon juice

-1 tablespoon of olive oil

-1 teaspoon of garlic powder

-1/2 teaspoon of salt

-1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat the grill to high heat.

2. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill fillets for 5 to 7 minutes per side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Brush with the lemon juice mixture during the last few minutes of grilling.

Blackened Sheepshead

(My Favorite way to cook Sheepshead fish)

Ingredients:

-1 pound of sheepshead fillets

-1 tablespoon of paprika

-1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder

-1 teaspoon of onion powder

-1 teaspoon of dried oregano

-1 teaspoon of dried thyme

-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

-1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper

-1/4 teaspoon of salt

-2 tablespoons of butter, melted

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

2. Mix paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl.

3. Rub the spice mixture into both sides of the sheepshead fillets.

4. Place fillets on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle with melted butter.

5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the oven or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Commonly Asked Questions About Sheepshead

Sheepshead Fish

How big does Sheepshead get? 

Sheepsheads typically range from 2-10 pounds but can grow up to 20.

Can you keep Sheepshead?

Yes, there is no size limit on Sheepshead in most states. Check your local fishing regulations for more information.

Is Sheepshead a saltwater or freshwater fish?

Saltwater. You can find Sheepshead in coastal waters around reefs, docks, and piers.

What does Sheepshead eat?

Sheepsheads are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything they can find. They have been known to eat smaller fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Is Sheepshead a good-eating fish?

Yes, Sheepshead is considered to be a good-eating fish. Many anglers believe it is one of the best-tasting fish you can find in coastal waters.

When you eat Sheepshead fish, you may notice a slight shellfish flavor. Sheepshead taste this way because they predominantly feed on fiddler crab, sea grasses, and other shellfish.

Where are sheepshead fish found?

Sheepshead is found in saltwater along the United States east coasts and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sheepshead love structure, so whether you are inshore or near shore, find structure. Artificial reefs, wrecks, docks, and jetties produce the best bite.

What is the best time of year to catch Sheepshead?

The best time of year to catch Sheepshead is during the winter months. Sheepshead will congregate in shallow coastal waters to find the warmest waters.

While winter is undoubtedly the best time to fish for Sheepshead, Spring also provides a hot bit, especially in March and April, during the spawning season.

During the springtime, Sheepshead seeks out spawning grounds, particularly around structure, and don’t head too far offshore. Nearshore Sheepshead fishing in the Spring is one of the best times to go after Sheepshead.

Why is it called Sheepshead?

The Sheepshead got its name from the bony bumps on its head, which resemble a sheep’s skull.

Is there another name for sheepshead fish?

The sheepshead fish is also known as the convict fish(because of the black and white stripes), sea robin, and heads.

Are Sheepshead and black drum the same? What about Freshwater Drum?

No, Sheepshead and black drum are not the same. Black drums are a type of saltwater fish in the drum family related to redfish. Sheepshead is a type of saltwater fish that belongs to the porgy family.

Sheepsheads are also often confused with freshwater drums, especially in Louisiana. Freshwater Drums, also known as Gaspergou in Louisiana, resemble Sheepshead closely but are not in the same family.

Summing It All Up

Sheepshead Fishing on jetty

Sheepshead is a good-eating fish that are found in saltwater along the east coasts of the United States, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Sheepshead love structures and can be found near reefs, wrecks, docks, and jetties. The best time of year to catch Sheepshead is during the winter months. The Sheepshead got its name from the bony bumps on its head, which resemble a sheep’s skull.

For more fishing tips and guides, click here.

To access all of my recommendations for rods and reels, check out the pages below:

Now stop reading and GO Fishing!

Captain Tyler Brady

Captain Tyler Brady

Hi, I'm Captain Tyler Brady, founder of A Fellow Fisherman. Thank you for reading this post and visiting my site. I strive to provide the best information when it comes to fishing, whether it is myself or A Fellow Fisherman that is part of my team. Now stop reading and GO fishing!

We have partnered with Bass Pro Shops to offer the best deals on high-quality fishing and outdoor gear to our readers. If you click on the button below, we will take you to their exclusive discount page.

Leave a Comment