Sheepshead got their name for a reason: their faces forevermore look like those of sheep, with teeth that can do harm to weak hooks and an ill-placed finger.
“Do not, I repeat, do not put your finger in or near the mouth of a sheepy,” said guide Kenny Shiyou of Bay St. Louis. “Not if you value your fingertip. They may not can bite it off, but they’ll try.
“A good set of needle nose pliers is your friend, that and a good sturdy set of fish grips.”
Post Katrina, as more fishermen have started catching more sheepshead around bridge pilings, they have become more popular, so much so that earlier this year, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources instituted regulations to protect the eager eaters. The new creel limit is 15 per angler per day, and only fish with a total length of 14 inches may be kept.
“I’m so glad they did that,” said angler Tommy Lewis of Biloxi. “In the past few decades, we’ve seen a domino effect on our different fish species. As restrictions got tighter on one species, like red snapper, it put more pressure on others, like triggerfish and amberjack and so on. Then those species got more highly regulated and restricted.
“As speckled trout, flounder and, to some extent, redfish, became harder and harder to catch inshore, we started seeing more people targeting sheepshead. They are still plentiful, but the new size limit and catch limit will help keep them that way.”