California Sheepshead Description
Sheepshead are a large member of the wrasse family. It has a fairly limited range primarily in the southern half of California and Northern Baja. These fish live in rocks in approximately 60-200 feet of water and can live up to 20 years and reach a maximum size of around 35lbs. They have a number of protruding teeth that help them crush the crustaceans and mollusks that they feed on. When hooked, they head straight to the bottom and you need to turn them away quickly to avoid getting broken off. You can tell you have hooked one by the throbbing headshakes they make as they try to get to the rocks.
Sheepshead all start out as females. As they get older, they develop black coloration on their heads and tails and become male. Hence the largest ones caught are always male. They don't really have any sharp spines but you don't want to get bit by one since they have some serious teeth.
I have never eaten one, but I have heard a number of people say they are good to eat.
California Sheepshead Tackle
Because they live in rocky areas most of the time, heavier tackle should be employed if you are targeting bigger ones. I recommend a 40lb leader with braided line to help get them away from the rocks quickly. Click here for tackle recommendations.
California Sheepshead Techniques
Sheepshead live in rocky and kelp areas, generally in relatively shallow water. Chum can be employed to start getting them in a feeding mood. Baits should be fished right on the bottom.
California Sheepshead Lures
I have never caught or seen one caught on a lure, although I'm sure it is possible. I've heard that Berkeley Gulp lures work, but they are pretty much like fishing bait. I'm guessing you can get some with soft plastics fished near the rocks.
California Sheephead Bait
Sheepshead like invertebrates like shrimp and crabs and sea urchins. They also feed on squid. They are not big fans of fin baits, so leave the sardines and anchovies at home if you are targeting them. Probably the most convenient baits to use are shrimp or squid. They also eat freshwater crayfish.
Where to get the big California Sheepshead
Some of the offshore islands such as San Clemente and the Channel Islands have some big ones. San Nicholas also has some nice ones.
Other California Sheepshead Resources
The above barely scratches the surface on how to catch California Sheepshead. Here is a link to an article by respected charter captain David Bacon: http://www.wavewalker.com/pdf/Sheephead%20Secrets.pdf