Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)

Hogfish lateral view
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Hogfish fact file

Hogfish description

GenusLachnolaimus (1)

The fish (Lachnolaimus maximus) gets its unusual name from its long, pig-like snout and protrusible mouth which it uses to root around the sea bottom for food (3) (4). The hogfish belongs to the second largest family of marine fishes, the wrasses, but instead of a cigar-shaped body like most wrasses, the hogfish is laterally compressed and round (2) (4). The colour of the hogfish is highly variable, and depends on age, sex and habitat (4). Generally they are pearly white and mottled with reddish-brown (4). Small hogfish may be uniformly grey, whilst large hogfish can be mostly salmon pink, with a dark maroon bar on top of the snout (2). Most individuals possess a prominent round, black blotch below the dorsal fin, yellowish pectoral fins and bright red eyes (2).

Also known as
Labre Capitaine.
Boquinete, Doncella de Pluma, Jaqueton Blanco, Pargo Gallo.
Length: up to 100 cm (2)
9 kg (3)

Hogfish biology

Hogfish have a fascinating life history; they are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that individuals first function sexually as females and then later, upon reaching a larger size, transform into males (4). This change generally occurs at around three years of age and a length of about 35 centimetres (4). Hogfish form harems; groups of females dominated by a larger male. The male and the females simultaneously release gametes into the surrounding water where fertilisation occurs. The fertilised eggs develop quickly into larvae, a stage which lasts several weeks until they grow into juveniles. Off the coast of Florida, this spawning event occurs during February and March (4).

Hogfish forage during the day, feeding primarily on gastropods and bivalve molluscs, but also on crabs, sea urchins, and barnacles (2). It can use its long snout and protractible mouth to root in the sand for its favoured prey (3). Hogfish may live for up to 11 years (4).


Hogfish range

Occurring in the western Atlantic, the hogfish is found from North Carolina and Bermuda, south to the Gulf of Mexico and the northern coast of South America (2).

See this species on Google Earth.


Hogfish habitat

The hogfish inhabits inshore patch reefs and seaward reefs, at depths of 3 to 30 metres. It prefers areas with abundant growth of gorgonian corals (3).


Hogfish status

The hogfish is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Hogfish threats

Hogfish are sought after by humans (2), due to their apparently unique taste and flavour (5). Unfortunately, this has led to fishing pressure that has reduced many populations to critically low levels (5), and the fish is now vulnerable to extinction (1). In Florida, where the fish is economically important to both commercial and recreational fisheries, there are indications that the hogfish stock has been overfished for more than a decade (5). Juvenile hogfish are also sometimes captured for the aquarium trade (2).


Hogfish conservation

An assessment of the Florida stock led to the recommendation that the minimum size limit of fish that are captured in fisheries should be raised (5), which would reduce the pressure on the Florida stock. There have also been successful attempts at raising hogfish in captivity, and it is hoped that aquaculture will eventually reduce the fishing pressure on natural stocks of this intriguing fish (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the hogfish: 



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The cultivation of marine or freshwater food fish or shellfish under controlled conditions.
Bivalve molluscs
A group of aquatic animals in which the soft body parts are encased in a shell, consisting of two sections known as valves.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
Reproductive cells which carry genetic information from their parents, and are capable of fusing with a gamete of the opposite sex to produce a fertilized egg. In animals, male gametes are called sperm and female gametes are called ova.
A group of molluscs that have a well-defined head, an unsegmented body and a broad, flat foot. They can possess a single, usually coiled, shell or no shell at all. Includes slugs, snails and limpets.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Pectoral fins
The pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Protogynous hermaphrodites
An animal that begins its life cycle as a female. As the animal ages, based on internal or external triggers, it shifts sex to become a male animal.
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. Carpenter, K.E. (2002) The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 3: Bony fishes. Part 2 (Opistognathidae to Molidae), sea turtles and marine mammals. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  3. Lieske, E. and Myers, R. (2001) Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  4. Hogfish Biological Profile, Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History (August, 2007)
  5. Ault, J.S., Smith, S.G., Diaz, A.D. and Franklin, E. (2003) Florida Hogfish Fishery Stock Assessment. Florida Marine Research Institute, Florida.

Image credit

Hogfish lateral view  
Hogfish lateral view

© Michael Patrick O'Neill / www.photoshot.com

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