Sheepshead are colorful members of the grunt family, common from Virginia to Florida. They are found around rocks, reefs, bridges, inlets and other structure. Sheepshead feed on crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans.
Fishing for sheepshead is popular in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and other inshore areas where structure is located.
Off the Virginia coast, sheepshead are often found around the Chesapeake Light Tower artificial reef complex, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and local shipwrecks. As ocean waters warm in spring, sheepshead move northward, eventually reaching Maryland and Delaware.
Sheepshead can be very challenging to catch, due to their feeding habits and ability to evade hooks. Most anglers fish with light tackle, light leaders, small hooks and cut bait.
Sheepshead are very hard fighters and a challenge to land on light tackle. Some fish may reach weights of 12 lbs or more, although typical fish weigh under 10 lbs.
Small to medium sized sheepshead are often confused with juvenile black drum (puppy drum). Both species have a vertical pattern of black and gray bars or stripes. Black drum have a down-turned mouth and chin barbels, unlike sheepshead.
Sheepshead are good table fare and easy to clean and fillet. The meat is mostly white with a good flavor. Sheepshead is served fried, grilled, or broiled.