Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)

This is the most popular member of the Sparidae family of porgies with saltwater anglers in the United States and is a large fish that is commonly caught around barnacleencrusted structures along shores. It is an excellent food fish and is of commercial value.

Other Names

convict fish, sheepshead seabream; Portuguese: sargo; Spanish: sargo chopa.


The basic color of the sheepshead is black, including the fins, but the sides and the caudal peduncle are striped alternately with broad bands of silver and black. The stripes are most prominent in young fish. The mouth is small to medium in size, and the teeth are broad and flat for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks.


Sheepshead average about a pound in weight but may attain a weight of 25 pounds and measure as long as 3 feet.

Food and feeding habits

Sheepshead consume mollusks and crustaceans. They are browsing feeders, often in schools, that forage around the pilings of wharves and docks and may be located around jetties, over rocky bottoms, and in other places where they may find oysters and mussels.


This species occurs from Nova Scotia to Florida and the northern Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil, excluding the Bahamas and the West Indies.


Sheepshead are found in bays and estuaries and along the shoreline, and they commonly enter brackish water in coastal rivers.