Are Sheepshead Good to Eat? (Hint: Heck Yes They Are!)

When it comes to misunderstood fish…sheepshead rank near the top of the list.

Many anglers ask ‘are sheepshead good to eat?

Others consider them a trash fish to catch (I hate that term)

But the truth is, sheepshead are not only fun and challenging to catch, but they also are one of the most underrated fish to eat!

Allow me to explain…

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Is Sheepshead Good To Eat?

Sheepshead are absolutely great to eat! They have a very sweet and delicious taste with a slight hint of a shellfish flavor. In addition to tasting great, their meat is very nutritious and packed with healthy nutrients.

If you are not eating sheepshead, you are missing out…plain and simple!

Are Sheepshead Good to Eat? (Hint: Heck Yes They Are!)

When I was growing up, not many people talked about catching or targeting sheepshead. And even fewer people kept them to eat.

But I’ve noticed a change over recent years, where sheepshead are getting the recognition they deserve not only as a fun inshore species but also as a tasty and under-rated fish to eat!

What Does Sheepshead Taste Like?

If you have ever tried fresh sheepshead for yourself, you know that it tastes excellent! But what exactly does sheepshead taste like for those that have never tried it?

The flavor can be described as somewhat similar to that of a black bass or triggerfish but with its own unique texture and flavor profile. 

Sheepshead have a very delicate, sweet, and unique flavor to it that is often described as being similar to shellfish. Considering that shellfish make up a large portion of their diet, this comes as no surprise. 

The meat of a sheepshead will be very firm and oily. This oil and moisture content in the meat helps contribute to its great taste and overall flaky profile when eaten.

The meat is firm and cooks beautifully, leading to a tasty meal when ready. 

Sheepshead is a very versatile fillet, it can be baked, grilled, fried, and prepared in countless ways to suit your preference.

Are Sheepshead Safe to Eat?

Some anglers may worry that sheepshead may not be safe to eat. This usually stems from fear of parasites, diseases, or even the idea that these weird-looking fish are poisonous.

Despite their bizarre appearance, sheepshead are not poisonous.

While all fish can fall victim to various parasites or diseases, sheepshead are generally very safe to eat. As long as care is taken to inspect and properly cook the meat, sheepshead are extremely safe and make for a tasty meal. 

The larger threat that comes along with catching and eating sheepshead is staying clear of their sharp dorsal fin spines and large teeth.

If you are not careful, you can be poked by the fins or bitten by the strange, human-like teeth in their mouths. 

See Also: Night Fishing For Sheepshead…What You Should Know

Can You Eat Sheepshead Raw?

The biggest concern about eating any fish raw is the threat of various parasites such as worms.

All fish are susceptible to various worms and other parasites, especially those that live inshore or that have a varied diet. There is also a risk of bad bacteria that can only be killed using heat from cooking.

Yes, you can eat sheepshead raw. Although, you are taking a risk with the fish having parasites. In order to properly kill any potential bacteria or other parasites, you will need to cook the fish or freeze it before consuming it. 

If you want to take the risk, many people report that sheepshead makes great sushi.

However, if you want to 100% avoid potential food poisoning or contracting various parasites, it is best to properly cook the fish before eating it. 

Related: Do Jack Crevalle Have Worms?

How to Do You Cook Sheepshead?

Sheepshead can be cooked using a wide variety of different methods. Regardless of the method that you choose, it is generally best to fillet your fish before you get started.

Take care when filleting these fish, as they are tough and have sharp spines.

To fillet a sheepshead, insert your knife along the back dorsal fin. Slice along the backbone of the fish, freeing up the fillet from the rib cage. Carefully work the knife all the way up to the head. 

Keep cutting along the dorsal fin all the way down to the tail. Once the meat from the tail section is removed, you should be able to push your knife all the way through and free up this section of the fillet.

Now onto the rest of the meat along the rib cage. 

Continue cutting the fillet away from the bones all the way down until you reach the rib cage. This should easily come away from the fish, sometimes without even needing to cut it.

You now have a perfect sheepshead fillet ready for cooking! 

You can cook these fillets in a number of ways. You can bake it, grill it, steam it, fry it, or even eat it raw if you really want to.

Regardless of how you cook it, keep in mind to cook it until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Farenheight as this is what the CDC recommends to kill off any potential parasites. 

Is Sheepshead Fish Healthy?

Sheepshead are a popular food choice for many anglers and others who enjoy eating fish. And, like other species of fish, they are a very healthy option in general.

Many white-fleshed marine fish species, such as sheepshead, are considered some of the healthiest fish to eat. 

The meat from sheepshead is very low in calories and high in protein. In 100 grams of sheepshead, you will get 108 calories, 0 carbs, 0 sugars, 20 grams of protein, and plenty of additional vitamins and nutrients! 

Sheepshead are also low in sodium, only containing 71mg per 100 grams. If you are concerned about eating a healthy source of protein, there are fewer things better than sheepshead.

You will get a low-calorie, high-protein source of meat that is packed full of vitamins and nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin B. 

What Is The Best Way to Cook Sheepshead?

There are very many different ways that you can go about cooking sheepshead. With this fish, you can boil, grill, bake, fry, or even roast it whole over a fire and still get a delicious meal out of it.

One of the best ways I have found to prepare sheepshead, however, is to slowly bake it. 

By preparing and seasoning the filets, sheepshead can be slowly baked in an oven in order to retain its moisture and flaky texture. Once finished, you will get to enjoy the unique flavors that are kept in the meat that you might otherwise lose by preparing it another way.

In order to bake a sheepshead, you will need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I love to clean and prepare the fish while this happens.

Take care to get the filets off of the fish, and rinse and clean them under cold water. 

Sheepshead Fillets

After cleaning your filets, give them a healthy coating of your favorite herbs and seasonings. I prefer to use salt, pepper, paprika, and some fresh garlic and dill.

I also love to chop a fresh onion and sprinkle the small bits over the fish at this step. 

Next, place the plate or dish that has your seasoned fillets in the oven. You will leave it in there for around 15 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and flaky.

Once done, the meat should be extremely tender and your seasonings will help enhance the shellfish flavor of the fish. 

(Did you know some people call sheepshead ‘poor mans lobster’ due to its similar flavor and texture?)

You can serve this baked fillet however you would like, although I find it goes great with some lemon juice over the top and a side of bread.

After only about 25 minutes from start to finish, you have yourself a healthy and delicious meal made of sheepshead! 

Is Sheepshead Fish Good Fried?

A very popular method of cooking sheepshead is to deep fry it and serve it with a side of choice.

Sheepshead are very good when fried, and their flavor and texture work well with the frying process to produce a tasty meal. 

Sheepshead work so well with the frying method of cooking because they do not have a traditional “fishy” taste like other fish have.

Because of their unique flavor and texture, sheepshead fries up very well and is considered to be one of the best-tasting saltwater fish around.

Final Thoughts

So, are sheepshead really good to eat? You bet they are!

The next time you are out fishing, do yourself a favor and keep a few sheepshead for the grease and try them out yourself.

If you like the taste of mild, flavorful fish with a pleasing texture…I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Good luck!

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Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.

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