5 best live baits for catching Sheepshead

Sheepshead are a popular target for anglers because they are fun to catch and great to eat. The best way to catch Sheepshead is to use bait that mimics their natural diet. That means using live bait whenever possible. Let’s talk about the 5 best live baits for catching Sheepshead.


Shrimp work great for catching Sheepshead because shrimp are already a staple in Sheepshead’s diet. Sheepshead definitely prefer live shrimp over dead shrimp. The best size of the shrimp is around 2 inches.

Tips for catching Sheepshead with shrimp:

  • Live shrimp tend to stay on your hook longer and also attract more fish.
  • Cut larger shrimp into pieces and hook the lower half. Using too big of a shrimp will get you more nibbles, but fewer hook ups
  • Use shrimp to target multiple species, including redfish

Fiddler Crabs

The fiddler crab is another popular bait bait for targeting Sheepshead. Fiddler crabs are small crabs that live in the sand around the surf. The Fiddler crab works great as they stay alive a long time.

Make sure to use the right tackle when fishing with fiddler crabs. If you use a too big hook, you can kill them, so go small on your hook whenever using a fiddler crab.

A great video on how to catch big Sheepshead using Fiddler Crabs

Sand fleas

Sand fleas, also known as mole crabs, are another great bait for Sheepshead and a variety of other species. They live right under the sand around the surf. You’d be surprised how many sand fleas are right under your feet.

With the help of a sand flea rake, you can easily scoop them out of the surf. You can also use your hands to dig a few inches under and usually catch a few. Another option is to check your local bait and tackle shops. A lot of bait shops near the shore will sell live sand fleas relatively cheap.

You can keep sand fleas alive for several days with an aerator or a few hours in a regular bucket of water. Despite its name, they are not actually a flea and will not harm you in any way. 

How to hook sand fleas

When hooking a live sand flea, care must be taken as it must still be able to move freely. Take the hook, a size 1 long shank version being ideal, and simply hook it lightly through the back of its body and out through the shell.

Oysters and clams

Clams and oysters are both great for catching Sheepshead. They can also catch other species, including rockfish, sea trout, etc. You can use them with the shell on by simply putting a small hole in it for the hook.

Clams and oysters are available year round. Again, fresh bait is preferred over than frozen or dead. Dead bait does not stay long on the hook as it deteriorates very quickly.

Tips and tackle for catching Sheepshead

A 7 foot spinning rod is our go-to rod for catching Sheepshead. Baitcasting rods work as well. For line, go with a 20lb braided line with a flouro leader.

There are a ton of options for rigs, so use what you’re comfortable with. We love the the fish finder rig for all kinds of species. For more on rigs, check out the 7 Best Rigs for Sheepshead.

Tips for catching Sheepshead

  • Look for Sheepshead around docks or piers, as that’s where the fish will be hanging out
  • Make sure you know the best time to catch Sheepshead.
  • Pay attention to your line, as Sheepshead will usually give the bait a light pull at first.
  • Using live bait for Sheepshead will give you an advantage compared to other options.

Good luck and happy fishing!

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