Have you seen or heard of sheepshead, the fish with human teeth?!?
Sheepshead can be found along the entire Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. They are unique in that they stay fairly close to shore and to rocky areas, feeding on the shelled animals that live there. They thrive in the brackish waters where creeks or rainwater runoff meet salty estuaries. Because of this unique feeding habitat, sheepshead are sensitive to environmental influences and will leave areas that become polluted. In Brooklyn, NY, Sheepshead Bay is named after this fish, but they no longer inhabit the area due to the increase in waterborne pollutants.
Oysters, the favorite prey of the sheepshead, are also very sensitive to changes in water conditions. They are filter feeders. In the case of oysters, they cannot move to new places when their existing habitat becomes polluted. In order to break through the hard shells, sheepshead use their uniquely strong teeth. Sheepshead teeth look eerily like human teeth, and perform the same function of grinding and masticating a tough omnivore’s diet. Sheepsheads’ other favorite foods include plants, seaweed and algae.
In cooler months, sheepshead move offshore to spawn, and in summer they stay close to shore.
This makes them a fun, great fish to catch and eat this May! You can fish for sheepshead from a dock or a boat. Since they’re omnivores, they’re attracted to a wide variety of bait, including mussels, shrimp and barnacles. Sheephead prefer undisturbed waters broken by oyster beds or other natural features. Fishing these places can be a bit trickier, but it’s a lot of fun. For the best experience, hire an experienced local guide to show you the technique.
Sheepshead are just one of the fascinating and delicious species of fish that abound in our waters.
By Jessie Renew