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Updated: 03/13/2014 02:59:24PM

What’s a sheepshead?

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WATERLINE PHOTO BY MATT STEVENS
A fat El Jobean sheepshead.

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It’s sheepshead season in Southwest Florida. During sheepshead season, two things are certain. The first is that the schools of fat sheepshead that swarm around piers, docks and rocks will provide reliable fishing action. The second is that every saltwater fishing guide and bait shop employee in the region will repeatedly explain to visiting anglers that these popular fish are not the same species as the sheepshead, or sheephead, that are found up north and are considered by many freshwater fishermen to be a trash fish.

The sheepshead that we catch in Southwest Florida are a saltwater fish that sport a bold pattern of vertical black and white bars. They are not elegant in appearance — they are stocky fish — and when hooked they don’t make long, drag-singing runs or splashy jumps, but they are very hard fighters that tend to bulldog along the bottom while executing a series of strong, rod-rattling head shakes.

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