Jolthead Porgy

Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado

The Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado, whose common Spanish name is pluma is a member of the Porgy or Sparidae Family, known collectively as plumas in Mexico. Their common name is derived from their feeding behavior as they “jolt” mollusks from rocks. Globally, there are thirteen species in the genus Calamus, nine of which are found in Mexican waters, eight in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Jolthead Porgies are characterized by their “porgy-like” laterally compressed relatively deep bodies, which have a depth that is 41 to 44% of standard length. They are perhaps the drabbest colored Porgy. They have an overall silvery to brassy coloration with a bluish cast. The front of their head is brown with a blue line along the lower rim of their eyes, a whitish stripe below their eyes, and another between their eyes and mouth. The corner of their mouth is orange. Juveniles have dark bars on their body and caudal fin. Their head is deep with a long sloping profile that is at a 38 to 42o angle (a key to identification) and a large mouth with thick heavy lips. They are equipped with canine teeth and two rows of slender conical teeth at the front of each jaw and with small molariform teeth on the sides of each jaw. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 10 or 11 rays; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin has 12 or 13 spines and 12 rays; and their pectoral fins are long and reach past the anal fin origin. Their body is covered with scales.

The Jolthead Porgies are a common coastal species and are abundant throughout most of their range; they are found in seagrasses, over sandy bottoms, and within coral reefs at depths up to 655 feet. They reach a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches), but normally range from 35 to 50 cm (14 to 20 inches) and can weigh up to 10.6 kg (23.4 pounds). They are normally solitary but can occasionally be found in schools near reefs. They are bottom dwellers that feed primarily on invertebrates including crabs, mollusks, and sea urchins.

In Mexican waters the Jolthead Porgies are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Jolthead Porgy is very similar in shape to a series of Porgies and is most likely confused with the Knobbed Porgy, Calamus nodosus (steep head profile), the Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens (blue rectangle behind eyes), the Pluma Porgy, Calamus pennatula (blue rectangle behind eyes), the Saucereye Porgy, Calamus calamus (steep 51 to 55o head profile), and the Whitebone Porgy, Calamus leucosteus (blue lines above and below eyes).

The Jolthead Porgies are considered an excellent food fish and are targeted by both commercial and recreational fishermen. They are known, however, to contain Cigua Toxin. They are caught primarily by hook and line, longlines, bottom trawls, and fish traps. From a conservation perspective they are currently considered of Least Concern and unregulated in most parts of their range (except for coastal waters of the southeast United States). Commercial landings have declined significantly in the last 10 years and are currently on the order of 10 tons per annum. They are subject to habitat destruction and overfishing in some parts of their range.

Jolthead Porgy (1)

Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado. Fish caught from the Florida Middle Grounds, March 2016. Length: 41 cm (16 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado. Fish caught from coastal waters off Islamorada, Florida, April 2012. Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.