Though they may share the same name, the California Sheepshead is not related to the East Coast fish. The California Sheepshead feeds on crustaceans and has a vicious set of teeth which allow for feeding on hard shelled crab and lobster. All California sheepshead begin their life as females with their coloring being pinkish red. Later in life between the ages of 4 and 13 years, the fish undergo a sex change in which the females become males and lose their light coloring and develop black skin with a red stripe and white face. These newly minted males can live up to 50 years of age and weigh up to 30 pounds, though 5 to 10 pound fish are most common.
Sheepshead are a great tasting fish and consequently have a higher market price than other varieties. California Sheephead flesh is very white and delicate of flavor. It’s also very fragile when cooked and can easily break into small flakes. Fry it with at least a powdering of rice flour and poach in modest size pieces. Not recommended for soups.