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

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

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

The Porkfish are pursued by both commercial and recreational anglers. They are sold commercially on a limited basis but contain Cigua Toxin. They are generally too small 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.