Game Fishing > Grunt Family, Haemulidae > Pig-fish


Pig-fishAnother pan-fish belonging to the grunt family and common to the waters of Florida, and one much esteemed as a food-fish, is the pig-fish. It is known as hog-fish in Chesapeake Bay, and sailor's choice on the South Atlantic coast. It was described by Linnaeus, in 1766, from South Carolina. He named it chrysopterus, or "gold fin."

Its range extends from the Chesapeake Bay along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to Florida and Texas, and occasionally it strays as far north as Long Island. It resembles the grunts very much in its general appearance. Its body is rather more than a third of its length, elevated at the shoulder, and compressed. Its head is a third of the length of the body, with a long, sharp snout and a small mouth placed low. There is a narrow band of slender teeth in each jaw, the outer ones in the upper jaw somewhat larger.

The color of the pig-fish is light blue above, shading gradually to silvery below; the upper lip is marked with blue; the body scales have a blue centre, the edges with a bronze spot, forming very distinct orange-brown stripes along the rows of scales on the back and sides, those above the lateral line extending obliquely upward and backward, those below being nearly horizontal; the snout, cheeks, and gill-covers have distinct bronze spots, larger than those of the body; the inside of the mouth is pale, the back of the mouth somewhat golden in hue; the dorsal fin is translucent, with bronze spots or shades, the edge of the fin dusky; the other fins are more or less dusky, with yellowish shades.

Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts it resorts to sandy shoals in rather shallow water, but along the Florida Keys it is found also about rocky bars, and on the Gulf coast is often on grassy flats, or wherever crabs, shrimp, beach-fleas, and other crustaceans abound, on which it feeds, principally, though it is also fond of the young fry of other fishes. It is an excellent pan-fish, of delicious flavor, and is a favorite wherever its merits are known. It grows to a length of ten inches, sometimes to twelve or fifteen inches in favorable localities, but in Florida is mostly from six to eight inches in length. It spawns in the spring in April and May.

It is much sought after in Chesapeake Bay, and is a favorite food-fish at Norfolk, Virginia, where it is known as hog-fish. It grows there somewhat larger, and is also a favorite fish with anglers. The lightest tackle must be employed for its capture, and hooks numbers 2 to 3, on gut snells, for it has a small mouth.

Sea-crawfish, crab, shrimp, beach-fleas, and other crustaceans are the best baits, though cut conch and fish will answer pretty well. It is a bottom feeder, and sinkers must be used to keep the bait near the fish.