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Do You Know What Sheepshead Fish Taste Like? We Do!

Quick Answer: What Do You Know About Sheepshead Fish?

The sheepshead fish has a rich shellfish taste that matches it diet and which makes it one of the better-tasting fish on the market. While it is not exactly a good-looking fish with its human-like teeth, its texture is firm and flakes very well when cooked. It is also a fairly healthy and safe fish, though some concerns make it important to know what you’re getting into with this fish.

Sheepshead fish not only have a unique name but a shocking appearance that makes them like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft nightmare. However, looks can be deceiving and this fish is surprisingly tasty and is considered one of the best fish in the world to eat.

Its wide environment and uniquely broad spread make it a very popular fish in many parts of the world, particularly where it is baked.

Though you can grill this fish and cook it in many other ways, simply baking it might be the most effective way of accentuating its flavors.

In this article, we’ll examine sheepshead fish taste, highlight its texture, look at different ways to cook it and provide you with other important details.

These include potential dangers that you might experience when eating this fish, though these are quite rare.

What Are Sheepshead Fish?

Sheepshead fish are a species of fish found in various parts of the ocean. They are particularly known for their rather shocking appearance, which includes black and white stripes and very human-like teeth

. In fact, a picture of a sheepshead fish may look like a bad Photoshop edit because of those teeth.

They typically grow to be about 17 inches long but some have grown over 36 inches. This makes them fairly compact fish, which is good for their meat.

Often, smaller fish not only have tastier meat but fewer problems with parasites and mercury contamination.

What Is The Compared Sheepshead Fish Taste?

Sheepshead fish taste like shellfish and have been compared to triggerfish and black bass. They tend to have a great oil content with enough moisture to make it fairly rich.

This flavor comes from the sheepshead fish’s taste in foods like shellfish, mollusks, and other small fish.

Their meat does slightly change taste depending on how you cook it. This fact is true of all fish and includes softening up when baked and becoming even sharper when grilled.

However, they typically retain that shellfish taste that makes them so enjoyable.

What Do Sheepshead Fish Look Like?

Sheepshead fish have an unmistakable look that makes them distinct in the underwater world. Their short bodies alternate black and white stripes of equal size from the head to the tail.

They have sharp fins that make it important to handle them carefully, as well as their unnerving human-like teeth.

Cooked sheepshead fish have fairly white meat with a solid and firm feel that flakes very well when cooking.

The surprisingly tart shellfish taste common to this fish doesn’t quite match the tender flesh, though it is a pleasant surprise.

What Texture Do Sheepshead Fish Have?

The sheepshead has a very nice texture that becomes flaky and a little soft when cooked. That gives it a delicate feel in the mouth that separates it from drier or flakier fish.

Its flesh, while soft, is firm and holds together well, making it easy to chew without creating an oil feel.

That said, the sheepshead also has a decent moisture and oil content that produces a firm texture that improves its taste.

As with other fish, the texture is important when eating fish. If these fish were mushy, their shellfish flavor would lack the pleasantness it possesses paired with firm flesh.

Types Of Sheepshead Fish?

Sheepshead fish is not a variable fish because they’re just a singular species. That makes them different from fish like trout or perch, which come in many varieties.

A sheepshead caught in the Atlantic Ocean is the same species as one caught in the Pacific.

However, some fish are confused with this species because of their look. The black drum fish has the same types of vertical stripes but doesn’t have human-like teeth or spines.

The gaspergou in Louisiana often gets mistaken for the sheepshead but is a freshwater, rather than a saltwater, species.

Where Do Sheepshead Come From?

Sheepshead fish are present mostly throughout the Atlantic Ocean, near Nova Scotia in Canada, throughout the eastern United States coasts, and all the way to Brazil.

They aren’t commonly found in the Pacific Ocean but a few catches have been made there.

They prefer salt water with slightly brackish feels, though some may be found near freshwater lakes during the winter because these may be warmer than the ocean.

They also head offshore when the spawning season strikes to lay eggs in safer environments.

Are Sheephead Fish Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Sheephead Fish?

Sheepshead fish are fairly healthy because they have minimal calories and a decent fat content. They’re also reasonably high in protein for their size and include various minerals and vitamins.

That makes them a healthy fish to enjoy and another reason they’re heavily consumed.

Like other fish, the sheepshead is often host to multiple parasites, which can cling to its gills and other body parts. These creatures can spread to people in some cases and cause serious health problems.

They may also be at a higher risk of mercury poisoning.

How Do You Eat Sheepshead Fish?

Eat sheepshead fish by carefully cleaning it, removing the skin, taking out the skeleton, cutting out the internal organs, and checking the meat for parasites.

You can then season sheepshead fish with various toppings and cook them in whatever way you want.

Try to pair sheepshead fish with some tasty sides, such as potatoes, coleslaw, and other fish-friendly items.

These foods help to bring out even more flavor and create a balanced meal that makes sheepshead an excellent option for many different situations.

How Can I Store Sheepshead Fish?

You can store sheepshead fish in your refrigerator for up to three days by wrapping it in plastic and using an airtight container to keep out moisture.

In some cases, they can last for up to four days before you start noticing signs of spoiling in this fish.

Try to keep the container closed as much as possible to avoid odor absorption throughout the fish.

This problem occurs when items from your fridge produce a smell that affects the fish itself. Furthermore, the fish’s smell may affect other items without containment.

Can You Freeze Sheepshead Fish?

Freezing sheepshead fish helps preserve it for several months after its storage date. You can freeze it by wrapping in freezer plastic or paper and putting it in the fridge.

You should label the paper when possible or store it in a plastic container to keep it even more protected.

In some situations, sheepshead fish may keep fresh for up to six months, though that depends on how well you wrap them.

It is important to regularly check your package to ensure that your fish isn’t getting freeze burned or damaged in your fridge.

How To Tell If Sheepshead Fish Is Bad?

It is incredibly easy to gauge when any fish goes bad because it will start to smell rank. A fresh fish should have little to no smell but will start to stink as time passes.

When it turns your stomach, it is time to throw out your fish just to be safe.

You can also gauge just how bad it is getting by looking at its flesh as it rots. Spoiling sheepshead fish will have black and green spots throughout its meat where it is going bad.

The flesh will also get soft and mush and, when combined with a rotten smell, indicates a bad fish.

Can You Eat Sheepshead Fish Raw?

Sheepshead fish can be eaten raw and are commonly used for sushi and sashimi. They must be blast-frozen, like with all sushi fish, to kill various parasites and make them safer.

You can store it in the fridge for a week before it starts to go bad as well.

Note that eating sheepshead fish raw after catching them can be problematic because they may have parasites and bacteria throughout their flesh.

As a result, it is important to blast-freeze them if you can or to simply avoid eating fish raw whenever possible.

Do Sheepshead Fish Have Worms?

Sheepshead fish are often victim to many types of parasites, some of which are worms. Worms are common in most fish and can spread rapidly to humans.

For example, some fish worms may get into your stomach and cause diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and cramps.

Other parasites may live on the gills and look like worms clinging to the sheephead’s skin. You can eliminate these parasites by cleaning and cooking the fish.

Cooking should skill the worms, though you should always remove as many as you can before cooking.

What Is The Best Way To Cook Sheepshead?

While fish often grills up beautifully, sheepshead are probably best when baked. That’s because it creates a very delicate meat that flakes beautifully and tastes even better.

You can easily season the flesh with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to add even more flavor to them.

If you want to try a different approach, you can fry or sear your sheepshead for a great result. Searing their flesh produces a nice brown texture that makes them a little firmer and flakier.

Fish that flakes create a tastier overall meal that fits more people’s tastes.

How Do You Clean Sheepshead For Cooking?

Sheepshead requires you to scrape away the scales on the flesh and then cut down through the head’s junction into the backbone.

Cut along the lateral line along the back down to the anus and cut through the spine and rib cage to open up the fish and make it easier to clean.

Take out the skeleton and internal organs, pick out any obvious worms you find and cut the skin away from the fillets.

You can now cook your fillets any way that you like, such as marinating them in sauce or seasonings and baking them in your oven.

Are Sheepshead Poisonous To Eat?

Anglers know that sharp spikes often indicate poison on a fish and may believe this is the case with sheepshead spines.

However, sheepshead are not poisonous or venomous on their spikes, which makes them very safe to eat.

Note that while they are naturally free of toxins, they may eat various heavy contaminants in the wild that could make them more dangerous to eat.

Sheepshead Vs. Black Drum

Sheepshead and black drum have a similar black-striped look but are quite different in taste.

For example, the sheepshead has the slightly salty flavor common with many oceanic fish, while black drum tastes like freshwater fish.

Black drum is also milder than sheepshead and has a slightly firmer texture that helps it fit into more whitefish-style recipes.

How Do You Cook Sheepshead?

Cook your sheepshead by cleaning the fish and removing the fillets before creating a marinade or seasoning for the fish’s flesh.

Add this marinade or seasoning to the fish and cook it using whatever method you want.

Pan frying will take shorter than baking but typically produces more grease and fat residue, so be careful when picking your method.

Nutritional Value Table

Nutritional Value of a One-Ounce Sheepshead Serving

Fat0.7 grams
Carbohydrates0 grams
Fiber0 grams
Protein5.7 grams
Sodium20.11 milligrams

Quick Table: Amazing Sheepshead Recipes To Know

RecipesCaloriesTotal Preparation Time
Blackened Sheepshead10830 Minutes
Garlic And Parmesan Sheepshead9016 Minutes
Luby’s Cafeteria Baked White Fish58325 Minutes

1. Blackened Sheepshead

This simple seared sheepshead recipe is delicious and mixes various toppings and ingredients to produce a tasty whole. Start by mixing cayenne, garlic, basil, paprika, pepper, and salt on the fish and sear the top of the fish for at least two minutes before searing the other half.

Make sure you cook through the fish all the way and while it is cooking on the first half, slice jalapeno peppers up and place them in another pan and crisp them.

Whisk sour cream, lime juice, basil, and lime zest in another bowl and drizzle this combo over the whitefish before topping with the peppers.

Calories: 108

Total Preparation Time: 30 Minutes

2. Garlic And Parmesan Sheepshead

Garlic and Parmesan are a staple of many fish recipes, and this fantastic meal is easy to cook and should please you and your kids.

Start by mixing together breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl to create the crust material.

Coat your sheepshead with olive oil and cover with this topping before adding salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season.

Bake this fish in the oven by surrounding it with tasty veggies and adding the crumble to the top. This recipe is perfect if you have a little time and want a healthy meal.

Calories: 90

Total Preparation Time: 16 Minutes

3. Luby’s Cafeteria Baked White Fish

Luby’s Cafeteria is a popular restaurant chain that makes a delicious white fish meal you can adapt to using sheepshead!

Start by mixing mayo, lemon pepper seasoning, and parsley in a large bowl. Coat the fish with flour and add the previously mixed topping to the fish to help coat it.

Cook the fillets in the oven and serve with rich potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, or other tasty side dishes.

You can also mix paprika and other similar seasonings to make a rich meal that just about everybody in your family will likely love.

Calories: 583

Total Preparation Time: 25 Minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Sheepshead Have A High Mercury Level?

Sheepshead can have fairly high mercury levels depending on where they live and their diet.

That’s because shellfish and other fish that make up their diet may bottom-feed and eat high levels of this element.

As a result, it is important to be careful when eating this fish.

Can Sheepshead Replace White Fish?

Sheepshead has a slightly different flavor than most whitefish and isn’t exactly one-to-one in taste. However, it is still mild enough to work well in just about any fish-based recipe.

For example, they can replace salmon, trout, and even tilapia, despite their varying flavor profiles.

What Flavors Mix Best With Sheepshead?

Try to mix sharp flavors with sheepshead to accentuate its milder but rich, taste. Your broccoli and asparagus are particularly nice with this fish because they add a sharp kick to the fish.

Try to add butter, garlic, and any other delicious fish-friendly ingredients to make your meal even better.

What’s Up With Those Weird Teeth?

Sheepshead have very distinct teeth that help them not only scrape plankton off of crocks but crack open shellfish.

Don’t worry, you won’t be eating those teeth but will remove them when cleaning the fish. They look very similar to human teeth and have a similar function as well.

Three Amazing Sheepshead Recipes To Know

Some people are curious about what stingray fish tastes like. Get the rundown on this fish and some recipes to try it out yourself


  • Pick a recipe from the list above
  • Click the recipe name and visit the website
  • Collect the ingredients and cook the food
  • Enjoy – don’t forget to leave a review

Recipe Video

Jess Smith