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Sheepshead - Catching, Cleaning and Cooking

Updated on January 2, 2013

About Sheepshead - a Colorful Type of Grunt

Sheepshead are colorful fish, common from Virginia to Florida. They are found around rocks, reefs, bridges, inlets and other structure. Sheepshead feed on crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans.

Sheepshead are silver with 5 or 6 distinct vertical black bands along their sides.

This colorful species of grunt feeds on mollusks and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs, shrimp and barnacles.

How to Catch Sheepshead

Live baits for sheepshead include shrimp, soft crabs, peeler crabs, fiddler crabs and other baits. These vary with season and location. Fishermen choose live baits depending on availability and personal preference.

A small cast net, umbrella net or seine can be a great asset for anglers that prefer to catch their own shrimp, crabs or other small baits. Another possibility is a trap, which is baited and left overnight. This is a good option for fishermen that are staying near an estuary for a few days. The following list includes some of the many baits that are used to catch sheepshead.

Blue Crabs

The Atlantic blue crab is found in inshore environments from Nova Scotia southward. These crabs make excellent bait for sheepshead. They are fished as cut bait.

Green Crab

The green crab is an introduced species that is originally from Northern Europe. Their shell size can be up to 3". Green crabs are now found from New Jersey to Nova Scotia, and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Rock Crab

The rock crab is a common species of shallow-water crab found from Labrador to South Carolina. It is usually found sheltering in nooks and crevices.

Jonah Crab

The Jonah crab is a species of crab found on the Atlantic coast of North America. It is closely related to the Dungeness crab of the Pacific Coast.

Mole Crabs

Mole crabs are found along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward. Fishermen also gather them with special metal mesh scoops or with meshed wire nets attached to poles. They can sometimes be purchased at bait and tackle shops.


In southern states, shrimp are popular for catching sheepshead. Shrimp are sized by "count", the value being the average number of shrimp specimens per pound. For example, 16-20 count count means there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound.

Hard Clams

The hard clam is the most popular American clam. Seafood retailers classify hard clams corresponding to their different sizes. The largest sizes are called quahogs or chowder clams.

Surf Clams

The Atlantic surf clam is harvested commercially off the Northeast USA coast. Surf clams range from 4 to 8 inches in length. They are cut into strips forsea bass fishing. Surf clams can be brined and frozen, making an excellent stored bait.

Saltwater Fishing Books

Fish Florida Saltwater: Better Than Luck―The Foolproof Guide to Florida Saltwater Fishing
Fish Florida Saltwater: Better Than Luck―The Foolproof Guide to Florida Saltwater Fishing

This book is a unique guide to tell you when, where, and how to catch more than 35 varieties of sport fishes.

Inshore Salt Water Fishing
Inshore Salt Water Fishing

Learn where to find and how to catch over 40 species of inshore fish that swim in the waters of the coastal United States.INSHORE SALT WATER FISHING provides a wealth of information from the editors and authors at Salt Water Sportsman Magazine. These are the guys who are out there doing it, and they pass their knowledge on to you in the pages of this book. Experts such as John Bownlee, Angelo & Abe Cuanang, Bob McNally, Al Ristori, Dave Vedder and Tom Waters, along with Salt Water Sportsman staff members Barry Gibson and Tom Richardson, give you all the information needed to catch more and bigger inshore fish.Here's why every angler would love this book:It has interesting facts and information about the history and distribution of over 40 inshore speciesIncludes advice from some of the biggest names in the salt water industryBeautiful design and stunning photographs that compliment the two previous salt water titles in this series, SALT WATER FISHING TACTICS and STRIPED BASS: SALT WATER STRATEGIESAll of the information needed to catch inshore species during any time of the year, with tips and illustrations on how to fish with live bait, lures, and fly-fishing tackle

Fishing the Local Waters: Gulf Shores to Panama City (Fishing the Local Waters series)
Fishing the Local Waters: Gulf Shores to Panama City (Fishing the Local Waters series)

Two local fishermen share their favorite spots and special techniques in this tackle-box sized guide to angling in Florida's gulf coast waters. From inland jaunts to shore fishing to a day trip on a boat, the chapters cover everything a tourist or curious local needs for a fruitful outing. Information on the best bait, tackle, and methods are included, as are important safety tips, maps showing choice fishin' holes, and local recipes for cooking up the catch of the day. LORAN coordinates to more than 50 proven spots to drop a line are included, and a directory of fishing businesses on the Emerald Coast completes this angling guide.


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