If you’re a sucker for fish with cool names, you’ll love the sheepshead fish. These marine creatures get their unusual name from their appearance. They look like fish with sheep heads! Wondering more about these creatures? If you’re fishing in Crystal River, you’re likely to encounter one (or many) of these fish. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about them!
What is a Sheepshead Fish?
The sheepshead fish is a marine fish found in shallow waters along the coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Their location is namely around North and South America. They are also known as silver bass, gray bass, and lavender bass.
You can identify them by their large heads and mouths, as well as their camouflage coloring. With a sloping profile, the sheepshead boasts a short snout with serrated scales. The caudal fins are somewhat green while the dorsal fins are black and gray. You’ll find sharp spines on the back of a sheepshead along with black stripes, typically 5-7 of them.
However, the most distinctive characteristic of the sheepshead is its human-like teeth. Many unsuspecting people are surprised to see the inside of a sheepshead’s mouth for the first time. Instead of small, pointy teeth, you’ll find a set of molars and incisors-like teeth that remind you of your own set of chops.
Diet and Behavior of the Sheepshead Fish
Thanks to the unique teeth of the sheepshead fish, it happily feeds on a variety of different foods. The sheepshead fish is an omnivore, meaning that it eats other animals as well as plants. It feeds on shellfish, octopuses, and a wide variety of fish. It also eats seaweed, algae, and other marine plants. The larger sheepshead can feast on crabs, words, fish, and a different variety of crustaceans. Not much is off the table when it comes to the diet of a sheepshead!
But what about the behavior of sheepshead? This fish is typically found in shallow waters where it can hunt for prey without being seen. However, it can also live in the open ocean.
Sheephead fish are social creatures, especially during the winter. When you find a sheepshead fish, you may find a dozen or more. This is why the sheepshead is one of the most enjoyable to catch in Crystal River. Imagine casting in your reel and hooking a sheepshead, one after another. Keep in mind that these fish put up a good fight when you hook them. But this makes for an exciting catch!
Where to Find Sheepshead Fish
The sheepshead fish are found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They can be found from coastal Maine in the north all the way down to the southern tip of Texas.
This common fish is usually caught commercially, so it isn’t rare to find it for sale. In the Pacific Ocean, sheepshead are common near the coast of California as well as in Baja California. You can also find them in the waters around Hawaii. In the Atlantic Ocean, they are found along the coastlines from Rhode Island to Florida, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico.
But are sheepshead fish found here in Crystal River? You bet they are! In fact, people like to come fishing in Crystal River specifically to hook a sheepshead. They’re cool-looking fish and fun to catch. This is especially true when you’re out on a fishing charter!
You’ll typically find shepherd fish within water that is 10 feet or deeper. The best chance of snagging one of these fish is between March and April, which is when they spawn. However, you can typically catch them year-round.
One trick to finding sheepshead is to look around bridges or other places where you find attached barnacles growing. Sheephead like to feed on the barnacles, so they’re often found around deep water sections of bridges, rocks and more. But be careful when you are fishing around submerged rocks, as you don’t want to snag the line and lose your bait!
If you go fishing in Crystal River on a charter, you’ll be able to access more areas where sheepshead might be hiding.
How Big Can They Get?
The sheepshead fish comes in a variety of sizes. They are usually around 10-20 inches in length. However, there are some monster sheepshead fish out there that can grow as large as 20 inches. Keep in mind that it is not common to find them at this length, but it’s possible. The world record for a Sheephead fish is 21 pounds, which comes from Louisiana. You’ll typically find sheepshead in the 2-to-5 pound range.
If you are trying to catch one of these fish, you’ll want to use the correct size fishing pool, line, and bait. An experienced fishing charter captain can help you learn the best ways to catch a sheepshead in Crystal River, FL.
Why Sheepshead Matter to the Eco-System
Sheephead fish are important to the ecosystem, especially here in Crystal River. They help maintain an ecological balance in our region, as well as in the oceans. Sheephead also regulates immobile barnacles as well as species that swim near the surface. These fish can devour food in abundance, which assists with population control of Crystal River and beyond.
Can You Eat Sheepshead Fish?
If you enjoy seafood, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to the sheepshead fish. You can certainly eat sheepshead, and you’ll discover that they have a shellfish flavor that is both sweet and tasty. The reason for their distinctive flavor is because of their highly varied diet- this also makes them a very nutritious fish.
When you snag a sheepshead fish, be sure to take it with you for good eating. Expect a somewhat flaky texture and tender meat from this species. You can grill sheepshead with garlic and butter or try blackened sheepshead with basil-line cream sauce. Yum!
Tips for Catching a Sheephead
Are you fishing in Crystal River, FL for sheepshead? We have some tips that can help you hook the catch of a lifetime!
- Use a rod that is 6-7ft with medium action and a light touch- this allows you to feel even the slight nibbles from the sheephead
- Consider a spinning reel in the 12lb range
- A braided line works best for sheepshead
Get up Close with Sheepshead by Fishing in Crystal River
If you love marine creatures, or if you just want to learn more about fish, the sheepshead fish is a great one to research. These fish get their name from their unusual appearance, and they are found in shallow waters around the world. Sheephead fish are an omnivorous species that make a nutritious and delicious meal.
When you are out on the water in Crystal River, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the sheepshead fish, as it is a common species that is easily identified by its large head and mouth.