landing a massive sheepshead
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How to Catch a Sheepshead

Feb 23, 2024

Sheepshead, boat, South Carolina, low country, toothy fish, Convict Fish
Charleston, SC

How to Catch Sheepshead: The Lowcountry's Most Wanted Inshore Fish

Get to know Sheepshead:

The Lowcountry of South Carolina is known for great food, inviting people, and flood tide Redfish. Obviously, Toadfish and a litany of other amazing things. Inhabiting the same waters as the superstar Red Drum is a less popular but equally valuable fish species. One that I'd argue is a more formidable opponent on rod and reel and significantly better table fare than any drum species. The fish species that I am alluding to is... drum roll please (no pun intended)... the Sheepshead (Latin name: Archosargus probatocephalus)! This spunky, strong, and delicious white flaky fish will provide any angler with a lifetime of entertainment. If you can hook one, you'll next have to wrestle them out of the pilings! This is like a boxing match—up close, with lots of light hits. But the fun comes when the big hits start coming in! 

About the Sheepshead aka The Convict:

I am a firm believer that the more you know about a fish, the better chance you have to catch one. Built like a flattened rugby ball with a tail, the sheepshead is designed for a specific job:. The sheepshead has a laterally compressed body. The Sheepshead's structure allows it to stay close to dock pilings and other heavy structures. This allows the sheepshead to protect itself from predatory fish. It also helps the sheepshead get close to its favorite food!

Not unlike us at Toadfish, the sheepshead has a constant craving for crabs and oysters. But, how they go about eating these key food groups is a bit different. The mouth of a sheepshead is downright shocking. At first glance, the mouth is built similarly to that of a human. If we do our best dentist impression and open their mouths a bit wider, we will see seemingly endless rows of teeth. This allows them to chew on the hard outer shells of barnacles, oysters, and crabs. 

What Bait Should You Use For Sheepshead:

You will need to determine if you prefer to fish inshore. If you have a smaller boat or no boat at all, use Google Earth to find heavy structures. Old docks and sunken boats provide everything you need to get on Sheepshead. Now that you have found a few decent spots, the next step to catch a sheepshead is getting bait. If you are in the Lowcountry, you will have a few different options when it comes to bait. 

The first option is sand fleas, you can buy a tub of sand fleas. You can buy a tub from anywhere that sells frozen bait. This is a good bait to have. Small bait fish won't eat it. It is a little harder to get off the hook compared to other bait. 

The second bait is a universal choice, shrimp. Shrimp is both a good and bad choice. Sheepshead love shrimp. The little bait-stealers like pinfish that hang around the dock also love shrimp. But, you always have the upside of also catching redfish and black drum. 

The third and best option is China-back fiddler crabs. An easy-to-find bait, but harder to catch. You can identify them by the purple lipstick stain on the top of their shells. This bait is a bit hard to get because you need to catch many. It gives you ample time to decide what rig to use. 

Time to bust out the Toadfish Oyster Knife because the fourth option is raw oysters. You can use oysters off an old dock or bring canned oysters from the store. This is a bit more tricky though. As the oyster will come off the hook more easily than one of the hard baits. Although it is a sheepshead favorite snack so sometimes it's worth the risk.

What Rod and Reel Is Best For Sheepshead:

A rod with fast action needs a strong enough backbone to handle a sheepshead. The Convict rod , matched with the Carbon Elite 3000 , is everyone's favorite combo around the Toadfish office. This is the best setup because the 3000 allows you enough drag to pull a bigger sheepshead out of the structure. The Convict rod is small enough to allow you to maneuver around the dock you are fishing. 

Top 2 Best Sheepshead Rigs:

There are two main rigs I recommend to people who are interested in catching sheepshead. Both of these methods will be fished vertically or with as taught a line as possible. This is because the bite of the sheepshead is extremely soft. I consider the first one a finder rig. It's versatile and can be used for any kind of fishing, anywhere. That rig is the Carolina rig. Just like a generic Carolina rig, you will have to have an egg weight, a barrel swivel, and 8-10 inches of 10-20 lbs. leader. However, this is a modified Carolina rig. Instead of using a circle hook, I prefer the 1/0  3X BIG GAME J HOOK GUIDE PACK . Using this hook allows you to set the hook on the Sheepshead. Their bite is more of a nibble, so when you set the hook, it helps secure into their mouth. The second rig will work very similarly to the previously mentioned Carolina rig. However, it does not require as much gear. The Tog Treats from Tsunami are a great durable jig head. It has a hook strong enough to set into the toothy mouth of a sheepshead. 

After the Catch:

We always encourage you to #putemback. Although, the sheepshead is outstanding table fare. If you decide to keep this fish, you will need to break out the Toadfish Fillet Knife. You will also need the Folding Cutting Board to fillet the sheepshead. After that, you can blacken, fry, or bake this fish following any recipe you desire. My new favorite way to make white fish like sheepshead is the  Veracruz White Fish recipe. Be sure to check it out on the recipe side of our site. 


  • Maeve Greer
    Feb 29, 2024 at 18:56

    Maeve Greer


  • Marigold Bailey
    Feb 29, 2024 at 10:12

    Marigold Bailey


  • Julissa West
    Feb 25, 2024 at 07:34

    Julissa West


  • Billie Vu
    Feb 23, 2024 at 20:04

    Billie Vu


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    Feb 23, 2024 at 20:02

    Evie Deleon


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