NEW: Effective July 1, 2018, the recreational daily bag limit will change from 15 to 8 fish per person, a recreational vessel limit of 50 per trip during March and April will be created and state regulations will be extended into federal waters.

View the April Commission meeting presentation on this topic. 


Sheepshead: Archosargus probatocephalus

Florida Regulations:    

RegulationsGulf State WatersAtlantic State Waters
Size Limit 12” 
Daily Bag Limit 15 per person (changing to 8 fish per person starting July 1)
Vessel Limit  Starting July 1: 50 per trip during March and April

 *Starting July 1: state regulations will be extended into federal waters.

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line, cast net, seine, spear or gig
  • Illegal Gear: Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; Snatching prohibited


State Waters Harvest Seasons


Habitat and Fishing Tips:

Sheepshead are commonly found in brackish water river mouths, bays, estuaries and tidal creeks and especially near oyster bars, buoys, channel markers, piers and bridge piles where food is plentiful. Sheepshead feed primarily on crustaceans, mollusks, barnacles and small fish. Anglers typically use light to medium weight spinning tackle with shrimp, sand fleas or small crabs as bait. Using their specially adapted (human like) incisors and crushing molars, sheepshead can be difficult to hook and have an uncanny ability to clean a hook without you knowing anything happened. When targeting sheepshead, it is very important to keep your line tight and be ready for the bite because you often get one, and only one, chance to set the hook. The food quality of sheepshead is very good, and they are one of the only fish that can smile back at you during the picture!    

Can oysters and barnacles be used as bait or chum for sheepshead?

Oysters and barnacles are very, very different when it comes to regulations. 

Oysters have closed seasons, bag limits, size limits and can only be legally harvested in specific shellfish harvesting areas that are classified as "approved" or "conditionally approved" and in the "open" status. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Aquaculture External Website manages these shellfish harvesting areas.

Barnacles on the other hand do not have size limits or specified bag limits, which means that you can harvest up to 100 pounds per person per day with a recreational saltwater fishing license and you can use them to chum sheepshead. You can also simply scrape them off bridge piles and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead. Do not scrape barnacles from private docks or other private structures without permission of the property owner. 

State Record:

15 lb 2 oz, caught near Homosassa

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Image Credit:Diane Rome Peebles


FWC Facts:
Blue crabs have specially modified back legs, called swimmerets, which rotate at 20-40 revolutions per minute, allowing the crab to quickly swim through the water.

Learn More at AskFWC