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Can You Eat Sheepshead Fish?

Sheepshead fish look like, well, sheep. With their sheepish toothy grins and serrated scales, they fascinate saltwater anglers that need loads of patience and a fair amount of cunning to hook one. Can you eat sheepshead fish?

A fisherman is holding a fish Southern sheeps head

Yes, you can eat sheepshead fish, but with those chompers, they might just take a bite out of you first!

Do People Eat Sheepshead Fish?

Sheepshead fish are not exactly pretty. Not really ugly either. Just weird. Archosargus probatocephalus of the family Sparidae, or sheepshead, are silvery gray or greenish-yellow with broad dark vertical lines.

Sheepshead prepped for cooking

They have short snouts, high foreheads, serrated scales, and sharp dorsal spines. The weird thing is that sheepshead fish has teeth that closely resemble those of a human.

They range in length from two to three feet and generally weigh no more than 25 pounds.

Sheepshead prefer clean, unpolluted water and tend to move away from contaminated areas.

a single sheepshead swimming

This makes sheepshead perfectly safe to eat, although some say it’s still best to cook them first.

Where Do They Live?

They are found in the Atlantic, from Cape Cod and Massachusetts to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

closeup of a sheepshead mouth

They live around piers, wrecks, mangroves, and reefs where they feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and marine plants.

What Makes Them Unique?

If you look inside a sheepshead’s mouth, their gnashers look like they have stolen someone’s false teeth.

fresh caught sheepshead in a net

But instead of just having one row of teeth, these creepy creatures have two rows of molars on the lower jaw and three rows on the upper jaw.

Their stubby teeth are used for crushing crabs, lobsters, shrimp, barnacles, clams, and oysters.

a school of sheepshead

Fishermen know well to keep their fingers out of a sheepshead’s mouth as they can give a nasty bite.

What Does It Taste Like?

Fish connoisseurs have a deep fondness for sheepshead fish because of the delicious firm, moist, white flesh and mouthwatering flavor.

person filleting a sheepshead

The food sheepshead feeds on gives them a delectable, sweet shellfish-like taste.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare It?

fisherman filleting a small sheepshead fish

Removing the armor-like scales and sharp spines do cause a challenge, and you are going to need a sharp knife, but because of the palatable taste, all the hard work is well worth it.

Of course, you can order them in restaurants or buy them at a fish market and let other people do all the hard work.

a sheepshead swimming

Sheepshead tastes at its best panfried, baked, or grilled with rosemary, thyme, marjoram, lemon, and garlic.

Sheepshead grilled with lime and basil sauce and served with Spanish rice is delicious. It also goes well with a freshly chopped salad or grilled vegetables.

Can You Eat It Raw?

Sheepshead is perfect for sushi and sashimi with a soy dipping sauce that can even be flavored with grated ginger and a touch of wasabi.

a sheepshead fish

There are loads of recipes available with a wide variety of serving suggestions.

Can You Freeze Them?

Sheepsheads don’t freeze well, but they can be successfully frozen for two months or so. When it comes to these fish in it is best to eat them fresh to really enjoy the taste.

person holding a sheepshead fish

Is Sheepshead Healthy?

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. White-fleshed marine fish, such as the sheepshead, contain less cholesterol and saturated fat and are high in protein and nutrients that provide excellent health benefits.

a fresh caught sheepshead

Eating fish lowers the risk of getting heart attacks and strokes.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it, sheepsheads are freaky fish. Those chomping ivories and armored scales make them look like creatures that belong in a fantasy film and not on the dinner table.

But who cares that they are ugly when they taste so good!

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