With a great dental plan and aggressive nature, the sheepshead seabream is a toothy skill-tester of the Gulf Coast, where guide Jako Lucas (@CaptJackProductions) turns to it as challenging backup species. 


Known in these parts as the prison permit or banded permit, the sheepshead seabream or sheepie (Archosargus probatocephalus) is a bit of a bastard. I still have a lot to learn about them, and some days I feel like I have no idea why the hell they even exist, but I have also learned to love them. They behave a lot like a permit/triggerfish hybrid. You have to have your shit together with your approach and presentation. And, even if you do everything right, they can still refuse the fly. Plus, if you are lucky enough to hook them, they can easily shake it free with those human-like teeth. I actually hooked a monster last week with a client, got him right to the boat, he did one more turn, the fly was crunched and our premature celebrations turned into misery.  

“Hope and pray you get a good hook set with those teeth.”

Sheepshead are opportunistic, feeding mostly on small crabs, shrimps and other crustaceans. A sheepie of any size is a trophy, I have landed them from 2-8lb, but they do grow up to 15lb. They remind me so much of the zebra fish (wildeperd) that we catch on the South African coastline. Apart from looking pretty goofy, I would assume those teeth help them with feeding on all the shelled critters around rocks and structure. 


They can be found all along the Gulf (and Atlantic coast) of North America. I have fished for them mainly in Texas and Louisiana, but have also seen them caught in Florida. I’ve been able to get them to eat a fly better in Louisiana, but we do get our fair share in Texas. I have seen them in all sorts of habitats, but I mainly find them around shallow oyster beds, sandy bottom flats, and jetties. Basically all kinds of structure.  


It always helps to have a skiff or kayak, to cover more water and get you to less pressured fish. They will very often hold dead still and, if you are lucky, they will tail up. Usually they see you before you see them. They will even charge you and spook off – very much like a triggerfish. So if you can see him without him seeing you, it could be worth wading closer. Then I would put the fly as close as I can, drop it to the bottom, then slowly draw the fly. If you have his attention, he will either tail over the fly or sometimes just attack. Keep slowly drawing the fly until you really feel he has the fly, because he will try to pin it down. Then hope and pray you get a good hook set with those teeth. This is a perfect-case scenario, but most of the time those fish will just piss off.  

“Some days I feel like I have no idea why the hell they even exist.”

I prefer to use a 7- or 8-weight setup with a floating line and a 12lb fluorocarbon 12’ tapered leader. I have caught sheepies on all sorts of flies, but an olive crab pattern, heavily weighted, has been the best for me. 


There are some amazing guides in Texas and Louisiana who can get you onto these fish. I do love to guide for sheepies, but they are usually a bonus while targeting redfish. Most of the guides I know will be happy to help you with places to fish DIY for sheepies. May the force be with you. captjackproductions.com

This Wish List Fish was featured in The Mission Issue 45. Read the whole thing for free below.

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