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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Ocean Voyager

Range / Habitat

  • Sheepshead seabream occurs in coastal waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America, south to Brazil. It is absent from Bermuda, the Bahamas and the West Indies. The densest populations are encountered off southwest Florida.
  • This species primarily is found in bays and estuaries around rock pilings, jetties, mangrove roots and piers, as well as in tidal creeks.
  • It freely enters brackish water and, sometimes, fresh water.
  • Juveniles live in seagrass flats and over mud bottoms.

Physical Characteristics

  • Sheepshead seabream has an oval-shaped, deep body and a blunt snout.  
  • Its sides are silvery to yellowish with a darker olive-brown color dorsally.
  • It has a broad black bar across the forehead and 5 to 6 dark bands vertically across its body.
  • This species grows to about 3 feet (91cm) and 21 lbs. (9.6 kg).  

Diet / Feeding

  • This fish is omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates, small vertebrates and occasionally plant material.  
  • Adults use their impressive dentition to crush heavily armored and shelled prey and to scrape barnacles from rocks and pilings. 
  • The diet of the juvenile includes zooplankton, polychaete worms and midge larvae.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.
  • Assessments of sheepshead populations, based upon the number of recruits and catch yields, have indicated that the species has been over-harvested at times.

Additional Information

  • Sheepshead seabream moves to offshore areas in late winter and early spring for spawning, which sometimes occurs over artificial reefs and near navigation markers. 
  • This species is fished commercially and is considered an excellent food fish.
  • It is commonly caught by anglers from rocks and jetties.
  • Sharks and other large carnivorous fishes prey on the sheepshead.

Sources

www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Education/bioprofile.htm
www.fishbase.org

Peterson Field Guides, Atlantic Coast Fishes. Robins, C. R.; Ray, G. C. and Douglass, J., pg. 181