Sea Life

What Do Sheepshead Fish Eat

what do sheepshead fish eat

Sheepshead fish also called convict fish is found in shallow waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans where it can find its prey without being visible. It is an expensive fish that tastes really good and is a treat for the eyes in public aquariums as well. 

Sheepshead fish are cool fish with black stripes and teeth that look like ours! Knowing what they eat is great for people who want to catch them because it helps to use the right bait. There are different species of fish, some are carnivores and some omnivores and both feed on different diets. 

So, let us find out about the diet of Sheepshead fish and what they like to eat most. 

Sheepshead Fish

It is an omnivorous fish that belongs to the Sparidae family and has different varieties that can grow up to 20-25 inches in length with 3-4 pounds in weight. There is a world record for sheepshead fish from Louisiana that is 21 pounds in weight. 

Fun facts About Sheepshead Fish

There are some really interesting and fun facts about sheepshead fish:

  • The fish got its name due to a bony present on its head that just looks like the skull of a sheep.
  • Sheepshead have teeth just like humans and their smile looks like humans just with sharp pointed teeth at the front of the mouth. The rear teeth are just like molars.
  • They use their teeth to cut open the hard shell-cased sea creatures.
  • There are two and three rows of molars present on the lower and upper jaw.
  • It has 5-6 vertical bars on the fish’s body giving them a camouflage color look. 
  • Fiddler crab is the best bait for sheepshead, and after this, it also falls for minnows and sand fleas. 
  • It maintains the ecological balance of the oceans they live in. 
  • This fish might look different and dangerous because of its appearance, but it is not dangerous for humans.
  • They are found in many coastal areas and are a bit expensive to buy. 
  • They make great and healthy food for humans. 

What Do Sheepshead Fish Eat?

The bigger grown-up sheepshead fish eats a broad range of diverse nutritious diets because it is an omnivorous fish that eats plants and animals both. It feeds on over 100 different water species and devours any organic stuff present in water. This juvenile fish can prey and feed on invertebrates, small vertebrates, and plant materials.

The invertebrates sheepshead fish mostly eat are shellfish and marine crustaceans like fiddler blue crabs, shrimps, oysters, clams, barnacles, and mollusks. It also feeds on small fish like Atlantic croaker and marine detritus. 

Food of Baby Sheepshead

The baby sheepshead can be easily found in fresh waters and salt waters and their larvae feed on zooplankton and polychaetes. The little sheepshead eats a variety of foods including plant materials, algae, dead animal matter, small fish, and mosquitoes. When sheepshead is smaller, their prime feed is on mollusks such as mussels and oysters but as they grow and reach a certain length, they expand their menu. They start to eat crabs, fleas, and bloodworms in addition to their previous diet.

Favorite Crustaceans of Sheepshead 

The Sheepshead fish eat many things, both animals and plants but their favorite snacks are always marine crustaceans. The six foods that sheepshead can not resist preying on and feeding are: 

1: Fiddler Crab

The fiddler crab, also called calling crab, includes more than 100 species of marine crabs all of which are less than 2 inches. The interesting thing is they reabsorb their shells instead of shedding them. The fiddler crab serves as the staple food for sheepshead and is great for their teeth. 

2: Oysters 

Oysters are saltwater mollusks with long flat bodies and shells found in marine or brackish habitats throughout the world’s oceans. The sheepshead uses its sharp front teeth to open up the mollusk to eat them and enjoy its meat.

3: Shrimp 

Shrimp is an elongated crustacean resembling shellfish with long antennae that use swimming as a mode of movement. They are most liked by sheepshead as a source of food and bait because sheepshead fish love to catch shrimps. 

4: Barnacles 

Barnacles are sticky marine crustaceans like crabs and lobsters that sheepshead fish love to feed on. It is their favorite snack to munch along with other crustaceans. You can find them in shallow parts of oceans and also around the bridges near shore and dock pilings. 

5: Sand Fleas 

These are small crustaceans that jump like fleas and are difficult to prey on; they are also called sand bugs or sand crabs and are really tiny, approx 1/4 inch in length. They are gray and brown in color and difficult to capture but sheepshead fish like and can easily find them in their habitat. 

6: Clams

Clams are bivalve mollusks of varying sizes that are a kind of shellfish. They are really important for the seas and sheepshead fish enjoy feasting on them using their strong teeth to tear open them before eating.  

Can You Eat Sheepshead Fish?

Yes, you can eat Sheepshead fish. They might look different due to their human-like teeth but are really nutritious. The cleaning of sheepshead might be challenging due to the scales and skin, but it has an amazing taste and tender meat that makes them a wonderful addition to your meal. Sheepshead mostly lives in clean waters and runs away from polluted water, which makes them healthy and less polluted. 

Can You Eat Raw Sheepshead Fish?

The best way to eat them is to either grill the fish, pan-fry it or bake it in the oven with some herbs like rosemary, thyme, and all other seasoning you like. But if you want to eat sheepshead fish raw, you can have them in the form of sushi with a dip as well. 

Taste of Sheepshead Fish

The sheepshead has a really unique and distinctive flavor which is sweet in taste and shellfish in flavor. It tastes something between triggerfish and black bass but is definitely really tasty. The natural oil and moisture content of the fish makes it really firm and flaky while the meat is tender. The unique flavor of Sheepshead fish is mainly due to their diet which consists of a variety of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plant materials,


Sheepshead is an omnivorous fish that feeds on plants and animals. It eats a wide variety of food like invertebrates, small vertebrates, and plant materials. This fish loves to eat shellfish and marine crustaceans like fiddler blue crabs, shrimps, oysters, clams, barnacles, mollusks, and sand fleas. All these are its favorite crustaceans. 

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