Pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera

The Pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera, whose Spanish common name is corocoro armado, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known as collectively burros and roncos in Mexico. Globally, there are only eight species in the genus Orthopristis, three of which three are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Pigfish have elongated slender compressed bodies with a depth that is 34 to 38% of standard length. They are light blue dorsally and transition to silvery ventrally. Most fish have eight wide black bars of varying lengths on their sides. Each body scale has a blue center and a bronze edge that form orange-brown stripes extending up and back along the sides. Their head has numerous small bronze spots and their dorsal fin has rows of bronze spots. They have a smoothly curved head profile with a short mouth that ends before the eyes and have thin lips and a band of slender teeth. Their anal fin has three spines and 12 or 13 rays with the second spine being equal in size to the third; their caudal fin is slightly forked; and their dorsal fin has 12 or 13 spines and 15 or 16 rays and is continuous without a notch. They have 12 short slender gill rakers on their lower arch. They are covered with small scales.

The Pigfish are found demersal on inshore soft bottoms, including estuaries, within grass flats, and around bars and along channel edges, at depths up to 340 feet. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches) but are typically in the 15 cm (6 inch) to 20 cm (8 inch) range. They are nocturnal carnivores feeding on benthic crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, and small fish. They are a very rare and poorly studied species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Pigfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic with the exception they are absent from along the east coast of the Yucatan.

The Pigfish is most likely confused with the Margate, Haemulon album (dark caudal fin), the White Grunt, Haemulon plumierii (yellow and blue stripes on head) and possibly the Snouted Pigfish, Haemulon hoax (pictured below).

Snouted Pigfish

The Pigfish, although small, is considered to be an excellent panfish. The smaller ones are also used as a live bait targeting Seatrout. They are often caught utilizing a cane pole or light spinning gear with small hooks and cut bait or shrimp. They are often a by-catch of Seatrout fishermen taken off of grass flats, but are also a common catch off docks and bridges all along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, June 2015. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

Pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera. Fish caught off a coastal pier in Morehead, NC, October 2015. Length: 14.8 cm (5.8 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.