Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus
The Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, whose common Spanish name is Boquinete, is the largest a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family found in the Atlantic Ocean, which are known collectively as “doncellas”, “señoritas” and “viejas” in Mexico.
The Hogfish has a large laterally compressed round body whose width is 41-45% of standard length which is atypical for wrasses which are normally smaller and cigar-shaped. The juveniles and the females and males of the initial phase (IP) are a pale gray-brown or reddish brown in color with a pale underside. The terminal phase (TP) males are a deeper gray-brown or deeper reddish-brown; they have a dark stripe that runs from the tip of the snout to under the first dorsal spine passing just below the eye. The head has a large elongated pig-like snout with a terminal protractible mouth equipped with protruding anterior canine teeth and the iris of the eyes is bright red. They have a black spot at the rear base of the dorsal fin. The anal fin is pointed and elongated; the caudal fin is slightly lunate; the first three spines of the dorsal fin are thick and elongated and the fin is pointed with elongated lobes; and, the pectoral fins are yellow. There is a dark bar on the margin of the anal, caudal and soft dorsal fins.
The Hogfish is a coastal resident found in small aggregations over hard sand and rocky bottoms and coral reefs where gorgonians are abundant at depths between 10 and 100 feet. Juveniles are found in seagrass beds. They reach a maximum length of 91 cm (36 inches) and 10 kg (22 pounds) in weight. They have life spans of up to 11 years. They feed diurnally being a large bottom predator using its long snout as a shovel to uncover mollusks, amphipods, crabs and sea urchins. In turn the Hogfish is preyed upon by larger bony fishes and sharks.
Hogfish are protogynous hermaphrodites with the mid-life female being able to transform into a fully functional male. Harems consist of one male and several females with fertilization occurring externally. Pelagic eggs develop rapidly with larvae hatching in 24 hours. The Hogfish due to its extensive markings and finnage is an easy species to identify. It is an Atlantic Ocean species found from the Yucatan Peninsula south along the coast of the mainland to Guatemala.
The Hogfish is highly valued as a food fish, and marketed both fresh and frozen. They are prone to contamination by ciguatoxin however. The hogfish is currently listed as “Vulnerable” which is largely attributed to fishing pressures by commercial and recreational anglers and spear fishermen. Efforts to replenish stocks by aquaculture are a work in process.