Porkfish

Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus

The Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus, whose common Spanish name is Burro Payaso and whose local name is Bandera, is a member of the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as “burros” in Mexico.

The Porkfish has a deep body that is approximately 50% of the body length. They have a silvery-gray overall appearance with yellow fins and two distinguishing black bars, the first running through the eyes and extended well into the snout and the second from just in front of the dorsal fin to the pectoral fins. They also have yellow horizontal stripes on the sides. They have short heads with blunt snouts and small mouths with thick lips. The anal fin has three wide thick spines, with the second being the longest and five times longer than the first and 1.2 times longer than the third. The caudal fin forked is and the pectoral fins are exceedingly long.

The Porkfish is a nocturnal inshore bottom dweller found around rocky reefs and caves at depths up to 85 feet. They reach a maximum length of 38 cm (15 inches) and up to 1 kg (2.2 pounds) in weight. They are preyed upon by snappers, groupers, sharks and other large piscivores. The Porkfish is an Atlantic Ocean species and is found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

The Porkfish is the only grunt occurring in the Atlantic that has a yellow coloration and two black stripes. They are virtually identical to the Panamic Porkfish, Anisotremus taeniatus (a Pacific Ocean only species; yellow color with silvery-blue stripes). They can also be confused with the Blue-and-Gold Snapper, Lutjanus viridis (more aerodynamic body) and the Silvergray Grunt, Anisotremus caesius (lacks black line through the eye).

The Porkfish is pursued by both commercial and recreational anglers. They are sold commercially on a limited basis but are generally too small and contain ciguatoxin to be a major food fish.

Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus: Fish caught of 15-foot water off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.
Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus: Fish caught out of 15-foot water off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.