Archosargus probatocephalus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Sparidae

Scientific Name: Archosargus probatocephalus (Walbaum, 1792)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Sheepshead, Convict Fish, Sheepshead Seabream, Southern Sheeps Head
French Rondeau Mouton
Spanish Sargo, Sargo Chopa
Sparus probatocephalus Walbaum, 1792
Taxonomic Notes: Archosargus probatocephalus is subdivided into three subspecies by some authors: A. probatocephalus probatocephalus for the northern form from Nova Scotia to Cedar Key on the west coast of Florida; A. probatocephalus oviceps Ginsburg (which is associated with muddy bottoms) in the Gulf of Mexico from St. Harks, Florida to the Campeche Bank; and A. probatocephalus aries from Belize to Bahia de Sepetiba, Brazil (Carpenter 2002).

The Chesapeake Bay Sheepshead population is suggested to constitute a separate population, as large differences in vital rates are often indicative of this. The differences observed in growth could arise due to a variety of factors, including differences in mortality rates, environmental conditions, food sources, or genetic variation (Ballenger et al. 2007).

Frequency distributions of each of five meristic counts are significantly different between the subspecies found in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico: A. probatocephalus probatocephalus and A. probatocephalus oviceps (P < 0.05). However, Bayesian structure analysis of microsatellite genotypes indicated that all Gulf of Mexico Sheepshead populations constitute a single stock.Variance partitioning of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes suggests significant but limited divergence between subspecies (genetic differentiation index FST = 0.036, P < 0.005). Molecular data from North American subspecies of  Sheepshead indicate very limited genetic subdivision between the subspecies despite considerable divergence of morphological characters. Genetic structure is defined primarily by the geographic distance between sampling locales from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Overall, Sheepshead molecular genetic data indicate very limited genetic subdivision between the subspecies despite considerable divergence of morphological characters (Anderson et al. 2008).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2011-03-31
Assessor(s): Carpenter, K.E., MacDonald, T., Russell, B. & Vega-Cendejas, M.
Reviewer(s): Sedberry, G.
Contributor(s): Comeros-Raynal, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Gorman, C.

Archosargus probatocephalus is a widely distributed species in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Brazil in estuarine and marine habitats. This species is common and abundant in many parts of its extensive range. Sheepshead has been a major component of both commercial and recreational fisheries along the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. There have been recorded declines in annual commercial and recreational landings of this species in the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico, however, these are attributed in part to enactment of laws limiting or banning the use of entanglement nets in Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia. Current population assessments indicate that estimates of yield and spawning potential are sustainable even with an increased mortality. Conservation measures have been in place for this species since the 1990s in the United States and its distribution overlaps with a number of no-take zone and MPAs in many parts of its range. Archosargus probatocephalus is thus listed globally as Least Concern.

Gulf of Mexico

In the Gulf of Mexico, this species is caught commercially, recreationally, and incidentally throughout the region. The Gulf of Mexico represents the largest proportion of the United States' recreational estuarine harvest that is brought to shore; in this region the Sheepshead is one of the top three estuarine species harvested from 2000-2004, and together with the Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout, contributed to 39% of the region's recreational harvest. Though there have also been declines in annual commercial and recreational landings in the region, current population status in the region appear to be stable. Additionally, this species is managed independently by state regulatory commissions in the Gulf of Mexico; current fishery regulations include minimum size and bag limits, and ban on the use of entanglement nets. This species has been assessed as Least Concern regionally. 

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Archosargus probatocephalus is widely distributed in the Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Central American coasts from Nova Scotia to Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. It is absent from Bermuda, the West Indies, and the Bahamas (Jennings 1985, Robins and Ray 1986). This species occurs to at least 15 m (Frimodt 1995). 

Countries occurrence:
Aruba; Belize; Brazil; Canada; Colombia; Costa Rica; French Guiana; Grenada; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):15
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Archosargus probatocephalus, commonly known as Sheepshead, is common in nearshore waters of the southeastern United States (Dutka-Gianelli and Murie 2001). Sheepshead is considered common to abundant throughout the southeastern Atlantic states as well as on the Gulf coast (Jennings 1985). Archosargus probatocephalus has been a major component of both commercial and recreational fisheries along the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. This species is one of the top 50 stocks landed by marine recreational fishers in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico (rank numbers 43 and 14, respectively); average recreational landings in metric tons (mt) from 2000-2004 in the South Atlantic is 757 mt and 2,122 mt in the Gulf of Mexico (Figueira and Coleman 2010). Archosargus probatocephalus is very common off Mexico (M. Vega-Cendejas pers. comm. 2013). 

Commercial Landings

Commercial catch statistics for the Atlantic and Gulf States show an increasing trend in landings from 1950-2012, with a peak at 2,280 metric tons in 1993, after which commercial landings decline so that in 2012 commercial harvest of Sheepshead along the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico was approximately equal to that observed in the early 1980s (c. 560 metric tons). FAO total capture production for the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic from 1999-2011 also show a decreasing trend with an estimated decline of c. 43% over the past three generations of this species (13 years). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) commercial catch statistics for the Atlantic and Gulf States also show an overall decreasing trend over a period of 13 years (1999-2012) with an overall decline in annual catch of 66% (landings in metric tons). This decrease in commercial landings is attributed to enactment of laws limiting or banning the use of entanglement nets in Florida (1994; Florida Constitution as amended by Article X, Section 16), Louisiana (Louisiana Marine Resources Conservation Act of 1995), and Georgia (2000; Georgia General Assembly Code Section 27-4-7). 

Recreational Fisheries 

NMFS Recreational Catch Statistics show an overall decreasing trend in the number of Sheepshead harvested from 1981-2013 with a  peak of 4,281,833 in 1992. In the period from 2000-2013 (three generation lengths), the overall trend in numbers of fishes in all Atlantic and Gulf states is decreasing (NOAA NMFS Marine Recreational Information Program, Sheepshead is the eighth most harvested estuarine species by weight in the U.S. recreational fishing sector (2000-2004) with harvest weight of 31,568,921 lbs and accounting for 3% of the national recreational harvest. This species is primarily harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. The Gulf of Mexico represents the largest proportion of the United States' recreational estuarine harvest that is brought to shore; in this region the Sheepshead is one of the top three estuarine species harvested from 2000-2004, and together with the Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout, contributed to 39% of the region's recreational harvest (Lellis-Dibble et al. 2008). 

Landings by region


Sheepshead are significantly more important as a recreational species than a commercial species, with approximately 81 and 94% of the annual statewide catch taken by recreational anglers (Munyandorero et al. 2006). The commercial and recreational fisheries for Sheepshead are characterized by the use of a mixture of gear, particularly for the commercial fishery, with landings made from throughout Florida's estuarine and nearshore waters. Most landings came from the recreational sector (since 1982), and in recent years this fishery has accounted for nearly 90% of the total landings in weight compared to about 80% of the total prior to 1996. The annual combined recreational and commercial landings of Sheepshead in Florida were about 2.73 million pounds in 2004. On the Atlantic coast, the total harvest averaged about 1.6 million pounds during the period 1982-1995 but dropped to less than one million pounds each year since 1996. The combined recreational and commercial landings on the Gulf coast show the same trend with an annual average of 2.4 million pounds landed over the period 1982-1995 but only about 1.9 million pounds each year since 1996. The estimated recreational effort (CPUE) was lower on the Atlantic coast than on the Gulf coast. The numbers of estimated trips between 1982-2004 were characterized by multiple peak years and generally varied without trends on both coasts (Munyandorero et al. 2006). 

Annual commercial landings of A. probatocephalus in Florida peaked at around one million pounds between 1992-1994 and varied without trend at lower levels (286,000-393,000 pounds) from 1996-2004. The sharp decline in statewide commercial landings of Sheepshead observed since 1995 coincided with the implementation of the entangling net restrictions enacted in July 2005 and a 12-inch minimum-size limit and possession limit enacted in January 1996 (Munyandorero et al. 2006). Commercial Sheepshead landings decreased 68%, while effort fell 63%, and ex-vessel price also increased from $0.49 to $0.84, which contributed to a lesser dockside value decrease of 45% since the enforcement of the net ban (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, accessed 24 February 2014). The standardized commercial catch per unit effort (reported as landings per trip) did not show a significant change from 1986-2004 on the Atlantic coast but has increased on the Gulf Coast (Munyandorero et al. 2006).

Results from the 2006 stock assessment of Sheepshead off of Florida waters indicate that recent levels of indices of abundance equal or exceed estimated abundances for past years. Additionally, the increasing trend in Transitional spawning potential ratios (tSPR) since 1996 indicate that Sheepshead population have increased in Florida (Munyandorero et al. 2006).

Gulf of Mexico

Archosargus probatocephalus is caught commercially, recreationally, and incidentally throughout the Gulf of Mexico region (Sheepshead Technical Task Force 2006). An assessment of the early life stage survival of coastal fishes following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill indicate that there was an increasing trend in CPUE of Sheepshead following large scale fisheries closures after the oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Fodrie and Heck 2011). This species is very abundant in waters around oil platforms and artificial structures in the Gulf. There have been recorded declines in catch landings in the northern Gulf of Mexico of 63% over c. 13 years (generation length of 4.5 years), with Louisiana driving the majority of the commercial landings. Elsewhere in its range (Mexico), stable catches have been reported from 2002-2011 for a number of species together with Sheepshead. The 2004 stock assessment for Florida waters indicated that current exploitation levels of Sheepshead are sustainable (Munyandorero et al. 2006). However, given the decline of 63% occurring in  47% of its range in the Gulf (based on population decline estimates in the United States), this represents c. 30% reduction in landings throughout its range in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, commercial catch landings (through 2012) show declines in catches by 21% (2007-2012). These declines in landings have been attributed to enactment of laws, and are also driven by multiple factors including socio-economic considerations (e.g., fuel prices, diet preferences, etc.) and natural disasters (hurricanes). 

In Louisiana where 63% of the commercial landings of Sheepshead in the Gulf are reported, estimates of yield and spawning potential models (range of M = 0.2 and 0.3), indicated that at M = 0.2, the fishery from 1999-2008 was operating below F0.1 and well below Fmax, with yield of 69% to 77% of maximum, and Spawning Per Recruit (SPR) at 51% to 59% (conservation target of 30% SPR). At M = 0.3, this resulted in a more lightly fished stock with yield at 35% to 44% of maximum and SPR at 72% to 78%. Commercial landings have generally declined from a high of 3.7 million pounds in 1993 to c. 1.6 million pounds in 2002 and 2003, 1.5 million pounds in 2004, and one million pounds in 2005. The decline observed in 2005 (continuing into 2006 landings) could be attributed partly to the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which damaged fishing vessels, gear, infrastructure, and logistics throughout the region. During 2005-2006, many Louisiana-based inshore, nearshore, and offshore marine commercial finfish fisheries were significantly impacted by these natural causes and showed substantial declines in effort and landings (Blanchet 2010). 

Recreational harvest estimates in Louisiana showed a general increasing trend in 1999 through 2005, with a peak in 2004 at 3.3 million pounds of Sheepshead landed. Recreational harvests from 1981-2008 were equal to those of the commercial fishery until 1987 when the commercial fishery began to expand. In the years 2002-2005, recreational harvest was again equal to or greater than the commercial harvest. However, total harvest was higher than was seen in the early 1980s. In 2006, recreational harvest was below the levels seen in other recent years. This is likely in part due to the fact that Archosargus probatocephalus is not considered a primary target species for recreational fishers. The CPUE for the recreation fishery fluctuated with no indication of a long-term trend from 1981-2007 (Blanchet 2010). 

Recreational Sheepshead landings in all Gulf states show an increasing trend (1981-2012) with Florida making up 46% of the reported landings. Although Florida recreational landings show a decreasing trend (50% reduction from 1993-2012, over three generations), assessments of Sheepshead indicate that this species was fished near the maximum yield-per-recruit in 1994, but fishing mortality has since declined in response to several management initiatives in Florida.  The associated decline in fishing mortality and shift in age-specific vulnerability to the fishery has been enough to allow for the increase in the spawning stock of Sheepshead in Florida (Munyandonero et al. 2006). 

South Carolina

Although Sheepshead is reported as a commercial species, it is not targeted by commercial fisheries and historically has been considered as by-catch in commercial shrimp trawling or offshore longlining operations (NMFS 2006). Commercial landings from 1981-2005 made up only 0.28% of the total commercial landings for the southeastern U.S. Atlantic coast. Annual catches have been variable since the 1960s with no long-term trend in the landings (NMFS 2006, McDonough et al. 2011). Creel survey data from 1995-2004 indicate that the ten-year averages of the monthly percentage of annual Sheepshead landings from surveying private boat anglers at coastal boat landings is relatively constant year-round (South Carolina State Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, accessed 10 February 2011). Fish are present in the fishery every month of the year with peaks in landings in the spring and fall months. NMFS Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) data for the South Carolina Sheepshead fishery show that the fishery is made up primarily of private boat anglers targeting the fish in inland and nearshore waters (NMFS 2005).

Chesapeake Bay

Recreational harvest for the Sheepshead is increasing in recent years with the annual recreational harvest increasing from 1,583 fish in 1999 to 20,319 in 2005. This order of magnitude increase in recreational landings in the Chesapeake Bay over a period of six years (1999-2005) prompted closer attention and careful development of  the fishery by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Virginia and recreational anglers (Ballenger 2011).

Southern Atlantic

In Brazil, it is common in the southern part where it is a component of bycatch from trawls (L. Rocha pers. comm. 2011). 
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Archosargus probatocephalus occurs in a variety of habitats, including seagrass beds, rocky outcroppings, artificial structures (jetties, oil platforms, piers), and reefs (Jennings 1985, Sedberry 1987, Schwartz 1990). Juveniles are found in seagrass beds over muddy bottoms and oyster reefs, while adults are primarily found in and around hard rocky substrates (Jennings 1985, Johnson 1978). This species inhabits estuarine, nearshore, and coastal waters throughout the southeastern United States. 

Early Life History

The pelagic larval stage lasts 30-40 days and is followed by recruitment to estuarine intertidal mudflats habitats (Jennings 1985). Larval Sheepshead occur in nearshore waters and estuaries. Juveniles are abundant in grass flats or over muddy bottoms. Adults congregate around stone jetties, breakwaters, piers, wrecks, and bulkheads. Pre-recruits and recruits (adults) frequent structures with topographic relief in nearshore and estuarine areas. It also forms large feeding aggregations at times. This is not a true migratory species, but move to offshore spawning grounds into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic with the onset of cool weather and return to inshore waters in the spring after spawning (Jennings 1985, Tremain et al. 2003, Munyandorero et al. 2006, Anderson et al. 2008). 


Spawning is group synchronous and takes place in early spring (Tucker and Barbera 1987, Render and Wilson 1992a), followed by migration back to estuarine habitats of adults and juveniles (Jennings 1985). This species is a functional gonochorist (sensu Buxton and Garratt 1990), with early bi-potentiality of the gonad as a pre-adaptation for the development of sequential hermaphroditism (Render and Wilson 1992b, Ballenger 2011). Spawning strategy of Sheepshead appears to be batch spawning based on the observation of several oocyte developmental stages at one time in the ovary (Render and Wilson 1992a, Ballenger 2011). Estimates of spawning frequency are varied, and range from once per day to once every 20 days (Murphy 2000). Batch fecundity of females is also widely ranging. Ranges of batch fecundities and spawning frequencies in the United States (assuming a 60-day spawning season), results in an annual total fecundity ranging from as little as 3,300 eggs to 44,310,000 eggs (Ballenger 2011). Archosargus probatocephalus females in Florida and Georgia mature at approximately age two (Tucker 1987); 50% maturity is achieved at three to four years with no difference in males and females in Florida (T. MacDonald pers. comm. 2011). In Louisiana, all males older than age two, and females over age one were found to be mature (Render and Wilson 1992a). Age-length data acquired by Wenner (2004) for Sheepshead in South Carolina show that fish on average reach about 25.3 cm (FL) at the end of their first year, where about half of the fish remain sexually immature. All of the members of the population are mature at about 35.4 cm (FL), or three to five years in age (Wenner 2004). A recent study of age, growth, and reproduction in South Carolina show that 50% of male Sheepshead mature by age one and 80% mature by age two. Females are ~40% mature by age one, and 100% maturity in both sexes is achieved by age four (McDonough et al. 2011). In the Chesapeake Bay, age at 50% maturity for males and females was 1.51 and 1.62 years, respectively, with lengths at 50% maturity of 280 and 257 mm FL; approximately the same age, but at slightly larger size than for South Carolina. All individuals, regardless of sex, were mature by age four and between 325 and 350 mm FL (Ballenger 2011).

Spawning occurs in late winter and early spring in the coastal mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico (Springer and Woodburn 1960, Christmas and Waller 1973, Jennings 1985). Off Louisiana, Render and Wilson (1992a) reported that spawning occurred from late February through late April. In Georgia, spawning occurs primarily in April (Music and Pafford 1984). Reproductive development in males and females in South Carolina occurred from December to early May and was in agreement with the reproductive schedule observed for the Sheepshead in the Gulf of Mexico, where spawning occurred from late winter into early spring (Jennings 1985, Beckman et al. 1991, Render and Wilson 1992a, McDonough et al. 2011). Most recent literature suggests spawning occurs in nearshore continental shelf waters. There is also some evidence of spawning within estuaries (Munyandorero et al. 2006, Ballenger 2011). Although evidence of estuarine spawning has been found in Sheepshead from Florida waters (i.e., hydrated oocytes and post-ovulatory follicles) the low occurrence suggests that this species typically spawns in nearshore and offshore waters (T. MacDonald pers. comm. 2011). Though some evidence suggests that spawning may occur in estuaries (Render and Wilson 1992a), it is generally believed that Sheepshead spawn in the nearshore and offshore waters of the continental shelf (Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Sheepshead reproductive studies by Music and Pafford (1984) and Render and Wilson (1992a) indicate that females with hydrated oocytes and post-ovulatory females are more commonly collected from nearshore waters than from estuaries during the spawning season.


Sheepshead are omnivores. Ontogenetic shift in prey items have been recorded. Larval diet consists of copepods, amphipods and other zooplankton (Benson 1982). Juveniles consume ostracods, gammarids, mysids, copepods and polychaete worms, and bryozoans (Hildebrand and Cable 1938, Springer and Woodburn 1960, Sedberry 1987), but will take any soft-bodied organisms found in seagrasses. After reaching 50 mm (two inches) in length, prey items shift to hard-shelled organisms such as bivalve molluscs, brachyurans, echinoderms, and barnacles, though small fishes are opportunistically consumed as well (Odum et al. 1982, Jennings 1985, Sedberry 1987). Adults feed primarily on algae and invertebrates (Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce,

Age and Growth

A number of studies have characterized the age and growth of Sheepshead in the southern United States; the maximum ages ranged from 13 to 23 years old (review by Ballenger 2011). The reported length-at-age von Bertalanffy growth curves indicate that for most areas the mean maximum length is between 425 and 450 mm FL, although larger sizes are recorded for Sheepshead in northwest Florida and South Carolina (Dutka-Gianelli and Murie 2001, McDonough et al. 2011). In the Chesapeake Bay, Sheepshead attain an older maximum age (35 years), are larger-at-age, and attain larger maximum sizes (maximum FL 62.3 cm) than Sheepshead in other regions (Ballenger 2011). Archosargus probratocephalus can reach approximately 91 cm (TL) (Robins and Ray 1986). Sheepshead display a fairly rapid growth rate up to about age six; size increases slowly thereafter with age (South Carolina State Recreational Fisheries Statistics,, accessed 10 February 2011). Sheepshead grew quickly in length until age four, rapid growth was followed by a reduced growth rate that coincided with sexual maturity (two to three years for males and three to four years for females (Render and Wilson 1992a, Dutka-Giannelli and Murie 2001). 

Maximum age

Louisiana - 20 years (Beckman et al. 1991)

North Carolina - eight years (Schwartz 1990) (scales used to age fish , all other studies used otoliths) 

Georgia - 17 years (Woodward et al. 2000)

Florida: Northwest - 14 years (males and females) (Dutka-Giannelli and Murie 2001); 25 years (T. MacDonald pers. comm. 2011)
Florida: Gulf Coast - 13-16 (males and females) (Murphy and MacDonald 2000)
Florida: Tampa Bay - male: 14 years; female: 13 years (MacDonald et al. In Review); combined: 15 years (T. MacDonald pers. comm. in Ballenger 2011)
Florida: Atlantic coast - 13-16 years (Murphy and MacDonald 2000)
Florida: Indian River - 21 years (male); 17 (female); 21 years (combined) (T. MacDonald pers. comm. in Ballenger 2011)

South Carolina - 23 years (McDonough et al. 2011)

Chesapeake Bay - 35 years (Ballenger 2011)
Generation Length (years):4.5

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Archosargus probatocephalus is caught mainly with bottom longlines and trawls. It is prominent in the catch of anglers. It is an excellent foodfish and is usually marketed fresh (Carpenter 2002). Sheepshead is targeted commercially to a limited degree in some areas; it is typically recognized for its popularity among recreational anglers in coastal waters along the mid-Atlantic through Gulf of Mexico (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, accessed 2009). Historically Sheepshead had low retail value, commercial interest increased during 1981-1993. Subsequent to this increase in interest, entanglement net bans in Texas (1988), Florida (1995), and Louisiana (1997) and commercial possession restrictions in Texas and Florida probably caused a decline in landings and retail value of Sheepshead in the Gulf (Anderson et al. 2008). In Florida, the dominant commercial fishing gears used to capture Sheepshead changed from entangling nets (gill nets and trammel nets) during 1992-94 to cast nets and hook-and- lines during 1996-2004 (Munyandorero et al. 2006).

In the United States, Sheepshead is not a targeted species and has limited commercial availability, but sometimes is substituted for Red Snapper and other more expensive fish in restaurants. Archosargus probatocephalus is primarily caught by part-time fishermen and sold in small numbers. During 2000-2002, average monthly wholesale prices for whole Sheepshead at the Fulton Fish Market, New York, New York USA were in the range US$1.10-2.75/kg. During 200-2003, whole Sheepshead (1-2.5 kg), mostly caught by castnet or gig, were selling for US$2.75/kg wholesale in East Central Florida (Tucker 2004).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the Gulf of Mexico, Sheepshead is a minor component of the shrimp trawl bycatch; this species composed less than 0.02% of the total bycatch during the 1995 spring season in Texas (Sheepshead Technical Task Force 2006). In Florida, this species is rarely caught in the shrimp trawl fishery (Coleman et al. 1993). Sheepshead are caught in passive fishing gears (e.g., ghost nets and crab pots), and ghost fishing in lost or abandoned blue crab pots (Sheepshead Technical Task Force 2006). Archosargus probatocephalus is a minor bycatch of the gill net fishery in the Southeast United States (Passerotti et al. 2010). 

There are potential concerns for the Sheepshead fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, related primarily to the actual pressure exerted on this species as other species become more limited through regulations. Numerous anecdotal reports indicate that Sheepshead may be the perfect substitution species. Sheepshead is not a frequently targeted species by anglers and is an opportunistic fishery by commercial fishermen. While a few states conduct stock assessments for Sheepshead, the extent of the fishery may, in fact, be underestimated (Sheepshead Technical Task Force 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Current management regulations in place for commercial or recreational fisheries operating on Sheepshead along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States include minimum size limits and bag limits. State-specific management measures are indicated below:


The Sheepshead fishery has been directly managed since 1996 with implementation of minimum size limit and possession limits (Murphy and MacDonald 2000). Fishery management actions enacted in the mid-1990s included: restrictions in the use of entangling nets, restricted species designation for Sheepshead, the 12-inch FL minimum- size limit, a 10-fish bag limit (changed to 15 fish), and a 50-fish commercial possession limit. Additionally, commercial fishing is restricted to the use of hook-and-line, cast net, beach or haul-seine gear, spear, with a 50-pound bycatch allowance for harvest by non-conforming gear (Munyandorero et al. 2006). These measures have lead to a drop in total landings and a change in size of landed fish (Munyandorero et al. 2006).

South Carolina

Archosargus probatocephalus has been managed as a federally regulated species in South Carolina where they spawn at offshore reef sites in both federal (>5.556 km [three nautical miles] offshore) and state (<5.556 km offshore) waters. There are currently no size restrictions for Sheepshead, and the established bag limit is 20 fish/person/day aggregated with species belonging to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) snapper-grouper management unit (McDonough et al. 2011). In 2012, Sheepshead was removed from the SAFMC snapper-grouper management unit, and is now managed by the states, since much of the landings are from state waters (G. Sedberry pers. comm. 2014). 

Georgia has minimum Total Length (TLs) 30.5 cm (12 in.) as with most of the Gulf coast states (McDonough et al. 2011). 

Commercial fishery bag limit is 500 lbs. per vessel per day, and the recreational fishery bag limit is four fish per person per day. There are no minimum size limits set forth in Virginia (Ballenger 2011).

Citation: Carpenter, K.E., MacDonald, T., Russell, B. & Vega-Cendejas, M. 2014. Archosargus probatocephalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T170223A1296293. . Downloaded on 15 October 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided