Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus

The Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, whose common Spanish name is boquinete, is the largest member of the Wrasse or Labridae family found in the Atlantic Ocean. This family member is known as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. This is the only species in the genus Lachnolaimus, and it is found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.

The Hogfish have large laterally compressed round bodies with a depth that is 41 to 45% of standard length; this is atypical for wrasses as they are normally smaller and cigar-shaped. Females and males of the Initial Phase (IP) and juveniles have a pale gray-brown or reddish brown coloration with a pale underside. Terminal phase (TP) males have a deeper gray-brown or deeper reddish-brown coloration and have a dark stripe that runs from the tip of their snout to under the first dorsal spine passing just below the eyes. Their head has a large elongated pig-like snout with a terminal protractible mouth equipped with protruding anterior canine teeth. The iris of their eyes is bright red. They have a black spot at the rear base of their dorsal fin. Their anal fin is pointed and elongated; their caudal fin is slightly lunate with pointed and elongated lobes; the first 3 spines of their dorsal fin are thick and elongated; and their pectoral fins are yellow. There is a dark bar on the margin of their anal, caudal, and soft dorsal fins.

The Hogfish are coastal residents found in small aggregations over hard sand, 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 weight of 10 kg (22 pounds). They feed diurnally as large bottom predators and use their long snouts as a shovel to uncover mollusks, amphipods, crabs, and sea urchins. In turn they are preyed upon by larger bony fish and sharks. They are protogynous hermaphrodites with females being able to transform into fully functional males at mid-life. Harems consist of one male and several females with fertilization occurring externally. Pelagic eggs develop rapidly with larvae hatching in 24 hours. They have a lifespan of up to eleven years.

In Mexican waters the Hogfish are found from around the Yucatán Peninsula and southward along the coast of the mainland to Belize.

Due to its extensive markings and finnage, the Hogfish is an easy species to identify that cannot be confused with any other species.

The Hogfish are highly valued as food fish and are marketed both fresh and frozen, however, they are prone to contamination by Cigua Toxin. They are currently listed as “Vulnerable” which is largely attributed to fishing pressures by commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, and spear fishermen. Efforts to replenish stocks by aquaculture are a work in progress.

Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 31 cm (12 inches). Photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish caught via spearfishing at the Florida Middle Grounds, September 2006. Length: 91 cm (36 inches). Weight: 9.1 kg (20 pounds). Catch and photo courtesy of Richard Shields, Encinitas, CA.