Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Nearshore, Reef, Wreck
If you want to catch a great eating fish that will turn many heads, look no further.
Hogfish are named after their elongated pig-like snout, which they use to burrow around sandy bottoms for crustaceans and mollusks. Their sharp canine teeth help crush the shell of their prey and 2-4 long filamentous dorsal spines add to the exotic, odd appearance of this fish.
An interesting fact about this colorful and elusive marine creature is that they are sequential protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they start their lives as females and switch over to fully functional males upon maturing at the age of 3. Every one of these males then schools with a group (harem) of females, which they exclusively mate with and protect.
Due to the decline in numbers as a result from commercial fishing pressure, Hogfish are currently considered vulnerable and bag regulations have been imposed to help conserve the species.
These fish grow up to 36'' and a reported 24lbs. The average catch will be between 2 and 8lbs, with smaller fish found farther down south. They live up to 11 years of age.
The signature Hogfish gape is wide enough to fit this angler's head in! Caught aboard Fish Pro Charters out of Madeira Beach, FL
When & Where
Hogs can be found in the waters of the western Atlantic, from North Carolina down to the northern tip of South America, including Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Gulf coast up to the Panhandle.
Even though it's found both inshore and offshore, it's mostly targeted in the larger bays of Florida, mainly Apalachicola, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Biscayne Bay. The best times will be February and March, as this is the peak of their spawning season, and the summer months. Hogfish can also be found off the Keys year-round.
How to catch
The best bait for catching Hogfish will be fiddler crabs or any small land crabs you can get. Sand fleas will also be effective, and they can commonly be picked up right from the beach. Artificials have not been shown to work.
You will probably have to use up a number of baits to get a hog on the line, but, once you get a hit, it's easily recognized by the rapid vibration of the rod. These fish are good fighters and a delight to pull out of the water and take a picture with. Spearfishing is more common down in the Keys, but the fish there are smaller, most often below the size limit.
A real beauty reeled in aboard Bait House Charters in Clearwater, FL
Good to eat?
Delicious meat, but has been linked to cases of ciguatera poisoning.
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