Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens
The Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens, whose common Spanish name is pluma jorobada, is a species in the Porgy or Sparidae Family, known collectively as plumas in Mexico. 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 Littlehead Porgies are characterized by their “porgy-like” laterally compressed relatively deep body that has a depth that is 38 to 42% of standard length. They are one of the most brightly colored Porgies. They have an overall silvery coloration with violet spots on their scales that form stripes on their upper bodies. These stripes are crossed by darker colored bars. The front of their head is a dark blue-gray with many wavy blue lines just under their eyes that extend back and form a blue spot behind their gill cover. The also have a series of blue stripes that extend down their head. They have blue spots on their sides that become pale orange on the lower portions of their body. Their head has a steep anterior profile that forms a straight line and rises to the nape then gently curves to the front of the dorsal fin. They have a small pointed mouth and mid-sized eyes. Their anal fin is blue-shaded and has 3 spines and 10 rays; their dorsal fin has an orange margin and 12 long slender spines and 12 rays. Their caudal fin features dull orange bands and has a long upper lobe and a slightly shorter lower lobe. They have long pectoral fins, 10 short blunt gill rakers and they have smaller scales than most Porgies.
The Littlehead Porgies are found in coastal waters associated with coral reefs and over hard spongy and coral bottoms at depths up to 130 feet. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches), but normally range from 25 to 38 cm (10 to 15 inches) and weigh less than 1 kg (2.2 pounds). They are bottom dwellers that feed primarily on invertebrates and are known to migrate between feeding and spawning grounds. They are preyed upon by the Sooty Tern, Onychoprion fuscatus.
In Mexican waters the Littlehead Porgies have a wide distribution are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
The Littlehead Porgy is an easy fish to identify due to the bright blue spot on its gill cover but can be confused with the Pluma Porgy, Calamus pennatula (gradual head profile; narrower body profile).
The Littlehead Porgies are caught by drift or still fishing with light spinning and baitcasting tackle utilizing live or dead shrimp or other cut baits. They are strong fighters for their size and a good foe on light tackle. They are considered good food fish, thus sold commercially, but are also known to be contaminated with Cigua Toxin.
Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA. Identification courtesy of Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Institute, Panama.
Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens. Fish caught on the Florida Middle Grounds, March 2016. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.