WHAT IS A SHEEPSHEAD FISH?
Up to 2.5 feet (70 cm) in length and weighing around 20 lbs (9 kg), this fish is known by a variety of names. The convict fish, zebra or dreamfish are the most common. With black stripes running down their silver body the convict and zebra references seem obvious. However this fish is also famous for stealing bait off your hook. And while this fish does taste great, its “dreamfish” nickname has nothing to do with flavor. During the Roman Empire it was consumed as a hallucinogen. Known as ichthyosarcotoxism, the appeal of this is puzzling since it causes hallucinations and waking nightmares that last for several days.
WHERE DO SHEEPSHEAD FISH COME FROM?
They came into existence sometime around the Pleistocene era. Like with many other fish the glaciers at that time caused a lot of genetic differentiation to occur. Today they can be found from the northeastern US (Cape Cod) all the way down to South America. There is another fish called the California sheepshead off the coast of California but it’s not related.
WHEN IS A SHEEPSHEAD FISH IN SEASON?
Today they’re available year-round. But among fisherman in the northern hemisphere they’re most popular from December through April.
ARE SHEEPSHEAD FISH HIGH IN MERCURY?
Yes they are. And they are a popular fish with parasites so cook them well. However even when well cooked, the above mentioned toxin is heat resistant. So cooking doesn’t necessarily kill it. However this is mostly concentrated in the head, liver, intestines and roe of the fish.
DO SHEEPSHEAD FISH HAVE HUMAN TEETH?
So believe it or not, yes they do! It actually gives them a huge competitive advantage by allowing them to eat an omnivorous diet. The front teeth look like an ad for your dentist and are great for crushing shells of any oysters or crabs.