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Maryland Fish Facts

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Sheepshead
Sheepshead


Sheepshead
Archosargus probatocephalus
(A.K.A. Convict Fish)
Key Distinguishing Markings:

  • ​They have a deep and compressed in body shape, with five or six dark bars on the side of the body over a gray background. 
  • They have sharp dorsal spines.​
  • They have a hard mouth, with several rows of stubby teeth – the frontal ones closely resembling human teeth – which help crush the shells of prey


View the Sheepshead Gallery
Sheepshead 
​​
Distribution:

  • The sheepshead is found in coastal waters along the western Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Brazil, but the greatest concentration is around southwest Florida.​


Size:

  • Can grow to 76 cm (30 in), but commonly reaches 30 to 50 cm (10 to 20 in).​
  • The average weight of a sheepshead is 1.4 to 1.8 kg (3 to 4 lb), but some individuals reach the range of 4.5 to 6.8 kg (10 to 15 lb).


Habitat:

  • ​These fish prefer inshore around rock pilings, jetties, mangrove roots, and piers as well as in tidal creeks, the euryhaline sheepshead prefers brackish waters. 
  • They also seek out warmer spots near spring outlets and river discharges and sometimes enter freshwater during the winter months. 
  • These fish move to offshore areas in later winter and early spring for spawning.


Spawning:

  • Spawning, which sometimes occurs over artificial reefs and navigation markers, takes place in latter potion of winter and early spring. 
  • Juveniles live in seagrass flats and over mud bottoms. Recorded among those species that perish during periodic low oxygen fish kills, the sheepshead is not particularly tolerant of low levels of dissolved oxygen.​​


Fishing Tips:

  • Sheepshead feed on bivalves and crustaceans.
  • Successful baits include shrimp, sand fleas (mole crabs), clams, fiddler crabs, and mussels.
  • Sheepshead have a knack for stealing bait, so a small hook is necessary.
  • Locating sheepshead with a boat is not difficult: fishermen look for rocky bottoms or places with obstructions, jetties, and the pilings of bridges and piers.​


Fun Fact:

  • ​Although the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, in New York City, was named after the fish, it is now rarely found that far north. However they just recently started to return to the area in small numbers, with a few being caught in the Jamaica Bay and on the Rockaway Reef.​


Family: Sparidae (sea breams and porgies)
Order: Perciformes ("perch-like")
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

​References:

  •  "Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)". Tpwd.state.tx.us. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  •  "No Braces Necessary for the Sheepshead Fish With Human-like Teeth". thefeaturedcreature.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2013.
  •  "Florida Museum of Natural History".
  •  "The Naming of Sheepshead Bay". Brooklyn Based. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  •  Gillis, Chad (6 March 2008). "Fishing 101: Sheepshead Porgy". naplesnews.com.