A tie is never as good as a win. Well, unless you just caught the biggest sheepshead in the state of Georgia. Angler Ben Golden III, of Midway, is a winner no matter what, as he now has bragging rights for the heaviest sheepshead ever recorded in Georgia.
Golden’s massive sheepshead weighed 14 pounds, 14.37 ounces. The striped fish was officially certified by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as tied with another fish of similar weight caught by Ralph White, of Rincon, in 2002. Golden’s catch information will be added to the Georgia DNR record book, and he will receive a certificate from the state for his catch.
According to Georgia DNR records, however, White’s sheepshead weighed 14 pounds, 14 ounces. Golden’s recent fish is .37 pounds heavier. So while the state lumps both fish into the same top spot for sheepshead because of their close weights, it’s a victory for Golden to know he has claim to the best sheepshead ever landed in Georgia waters.
Golden, age 63, was fishing near the sparse community of Sunbury, outside of Midway, located south of Savannah and upstream of St. Catherines Sound. He caught the chunky fish on Jan. 27. The catch fulfilled a longtime ambition for the lifetime Georgia coastal angler.
“I’ve been telling folks it’s been my goal to catch a state record for 10 or 12 years,” Golden told Georgia’s DNR. “I’m excited to say that I did it.”
Late winter through early spring is prime season for big sheepshead along the Georgia Coast, and they are extremely popular with area anglers. According to NOAA data from 2017 to 2021, Georgia state recreational anglers averaged harvesting more 262,000 sheepshead annually.
Sheepshead are noted for being difficult to catch, because their bite is so light to detect. Most are caught with crab baits, usually fiddler or mud crabs. Sheepshead take baits so gently that experienced anglers jokingly say that anyone fishing for sheepshead “should set the hook before they bite.”
The “convict” fish, because of its stripes, are considered one of the best eating fish along the coast. They often have five to seven vertical stripes along their flanks. Some people confuse sheepshead with black drum. But drum have chin barbels or whiskers like catfish, sheepshead don’t. Instead, sheepshead have lots of teeth similar in appearance to those of a sheep, thus their name.
Most coastal sheepshead are caught around rock jetties, piers, docks, bridge abutments and artificial reefs. Almost any area with barnacles is good spot to try fishing for sheepshead. They commonly weigh 3 to 5 pounds; fish near 10 pounds are less common and considered trophies. A 21-pound, 4-ounce sheepshead caught in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1982 is the current all-tackle world record, according to the International Game Fish Association.