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Fish ID >>Backcountry Inshore 

Sheepshead

Archosargus probatocephalus

Description: Basic silvery color, with 5 or 6 distinct vertical black bars on sides, not always the same on both sides; prominent teeth, including incisors, molars, and rounded grinders; no barbels on lower jaw; strong and sharp spines on dorsal and anal fins.

Similar Fish: Black drum, Pogonias cromis; Atlantic spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber (black drum have barbels on lower jaw, sheepshead do not; vertical barring on sides of black drum and spadefish disappear as fish mature; spadefish have small, brush-like teeth).

Where Found: Inshore around oyster bars, seawalls and in tidal creeks; moves nearshore in late winter and early spring for spawning, gathering over rocks, artificial reefs, and around navigation markers.

Size: Inshore, 1 to 2 pounds; offshore, common to 8 pounds.

Remarks: Feeds on mollusks and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs and barnacles; famed nibblers, prompting the saying that “anglers must strike just before they bite”.

Florida Record: 15 pounds, 2 ounces.

Illustration: © Diane Rome Peebles

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