Catching And Cooking Sheepshead

A fun and tasty catch, but watch out for their bite

Catching Sheepshead

Size and weight: Sheepshead range between 5″ to 23″, but can exceed 30″. They typically weigh between 2 and 12 lbs.

General Info

Sheepshead are a fun but difficult fish to catch. Their bite can be tricky, and they are heavy and fight aggressively for a small fish. Sheepshead have have teeth like a horse and a lot of biting power for their size.


Time of year: Active during the winter months, when they spawn.

Location: Found in the Western Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Brazil, Sheepshead are a bottom-feeding fish, and like structures including concrete pilings, rock beds.

Time of Tide: Best fishing is during the outgoing tide.


Bait: Fiddler crabs.

Method: Reel and rod, with light tackle.

Cooking Sheepshead

Drink Pairings

Drinks: No beer, sweet whites, bourbon beforehand


Deliciousness: 10 out of 10.

Flavor: Wet fish. Lingering taste that’s not fishy.


Strike (knife) behind the head, down backbone, and removing all skin. 

De-gutting: De-gutting is not necessary if you are cutting fillets – simply cut around the fish guts. 

De-blooding: Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Grouper and Sharks are typically de-blooded.

De-veining: Is recommended for larger fish, including Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, and Sharks.


Methods: You want Sheepshead prepared well-done, including grilled or sautéed. They are better deep-fried than baked.

Dishes: Appropriate for dishes that call for larger chunks, well-done.

Traditions: Appropriate for traditions (Creole, Cajun, Southwestern) that are not baked or diced. 

Suggested Dishes

Grilled, sautéed (blackened) or deep fried go well with okra, rice, tomatoes.

Cooking Fish, Generally

Traditions: Plain, Upscale, Southern, Creole, Cajun, Western, Southwestern

Cooking Methods

Sautéed (blackened): use a high-temperature oil with minimal flavor. Avocado, grapeseed, linseed, sunflower, safflower. 

Deep Frying: use similar oil to sautéed, but more of it. 

Baking: Method 1: Use tinfoil and leave open.  Seasoning is household seasonings. Lemon pepper and garlic. When fish is done, you’d use lemon juice and butter. Don’t add butter before the fish is cooked. Method 2: same but close foil. 

Grilling: if you want more flaky entrée, low heat. Maybe 10 minutes, both sides. Heavier texture, use a higher temperature.

Dish Descriptions

Entrée: Many people prefer blackened, filet skin on one side and leave skin on the other. 

Fish tacos: Require fileting both sides. Cube, deep fry in a batter. 

Fish soup or stew: Reheats well. A common cioppino or Cajun recipe will suffice. 

Fish salad. Deep fry to keep together, into a crisp. Cover meat halfway full with oil. Cook in a cast iron skillet. Use a Caesar dressing. 

Sides: Sweet potato, baked potato, potato wedges, brown rice, hush puppies

Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, salad, sliced tomatoes and avocado, string beans, seasoned collards, okra

Appetizers: Ceviche dip and fish cakes.


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