Sheepshead - 2013
Stock Status - Unknown - Sheepshead are a highly sought after recreational fish and captured in many commercial fisheries. The recreational landings in 2012 were slightly below the ten year average while the commercial landings were slightly above the ten year average. The harvest is mainly on small (presumably young) fish. Over the past 10 years (2003-2013), greater than 60% of the harvest is smaller than 15 inches total length and approximately 3 pounds.
Average Commercial Landings and Value 2003-2012 – 93,389 lbs./$55,775
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 109,881 lbs./$92,837
Average Recreational Landings 2003-2012 – 317,347 lbs., 2012 – 293,635 lbs.
Average Number of Award Citations (8 lbs.) 2003-2012 – 80, 2012 - 161
Status of Fisheries Management Plans (FMP) – No fishery management plan has been developed. Sheepshead were removed from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2012.
Research and Data Needs – Continue monitoring of recreational and commercial catches, collect aging structures, update the maturity schedule, develop biological reference points, conduct tagging study to determine migration patterns, determine juvenile and adult abundance indices, and conduct a stock assessment to determine sustainability.
2012 Regulations – None. Regulations were invalidated in 2012 when sheepshead were removed from the SAFMC’s fishery management plan.
Harvest Season – Open all year
Size and Age at Maturity – 11 inches TL/ 2 years
Historical and Current Maximum Age – 23 years / unknown in North Carolina
Juvenile Abundance Index – Not available
Habits and Habitats – Sheephead are found in coastal waters year-round in North Carolina waters based on recreational catches. Sheepshead are generally found from inshore brackish waters to offshore around rock and hard substrate. During the winter, adult sheepshead migrate to oceanic waters to spawn. Spawning occurs February through May. After the spawning season, many sheepshead return to inshore waters.
For more information, contact Chip Collier at Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov or 800-248-4536 or 910-796-7215.