Pinfish

Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides

The Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, whose common Spanish name is xlavitia, is a member of the Porgy or Sparidae Family, known collectively as plumas in Mexico. This fish is called “choffer” in Florida. Their common name is derived from their single sharp rigid first dorsal spine that is capable of penetrating human skin. The Lagodon genus has only one known global member, the species described herein, which is found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.

The Pinfish have oval compressed bodies with a depth that is 30 to 43% of standard length. They are bluish-silvery overall with alternating narrow blue and wide yellow longitudinal stripes and six dark diffuse vertical bars on their sides. They have a distinctive black spot near the origin of their lateral line behind the gill covers. Their fins are light yellow with broad light blue margins. They have a deep head with a pointed snout and a small terminal mouth that reaches the front margin of their eyes. They are equipped with 8 flattened broad incisors at the front of each jaw and two or 3 rows of molariform teeth on the sides of both jaws. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 11 rays; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin has 13 spines and 12 rays; and their pectoral fins are longer than their pelvic fins. They are covered with small scales.

The Pinfish are a shallow water coastal species found in both estuarine and nearshore waters at depths between 30 and 50 feet. Juveniles are found demersal in seagrass beds, rocky bottoms, jetties, pilings, and mangroves. They are found individually and in small groups. They reach a maximum length of 40 cm (16 inches) and weight of 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). They can tolerate water salinities from 0 to 75 grams per liter and temperatures between 10oC (50oF) and 35oC (95oF); water temperatures below 4oC (40oF) will kill them. Juveniles are carnivores and found primarily in estuaries; they consume amphipods, fish eggs, insect larvae, polychaete worms, and shrimp. Adults are herbivores and found in marine waters; they primarily consume plant materials. They are preyed upon by everything that swims including fish, marine mammals, and marine birds. Reproduction occurs in the fall and winter with large spawning aggregations of up to 1,000 individuals. Each female broadcasts up to 90,000 eggs several times a year which are then fertilized by males. Eggs hatch within 48 hours and larvae are pelagic being transported by currents to shallow water habitats, predominately seagrass meadows. They have a lifespan of up to seven years.

In Mexican waters they are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Pinfish is most likely confused with the Sea Bream, Archosargus rhomboidalis (deeper oval body; narrow yellow lines; wide blue stripes).

The Pinfish are not an important sport or food fish due to their small stature and numerous bones, however, they are a premier live bait and used to target flounder, grouper, redfish, spotted sea trout, and tarpon. They are caught via cane poles with gold hooks tipped with shrimp, cast nets with chummed up fish, and specialized pinfish traps. They are considered a nuisance fish by recreational anglers as they are voracious bait stealers. They are also used as a source of fishmeal and high grade fish oil. From a conservation perspective they are a vital component of coastal ecology; they help maintain the population numbers of certain crustaceans at reasonable levels and force new seagrass growth via foraging, which is essential to the long-term viability of these plants. The loss of seagrass habitat is considered highly detrimental to the long-term viability of this species. They are highly susceptible to pesticides and insecticides from runoff water and as such have been used extensively as test organisms in pesticide toxicity assays. A strong effort is currently ongoing to raise Pinfish via aquaculture as they have many attributes for farm rearing including rapid growth, ability to thrive in captivity, hardiness, tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions, and high demand as live bait fish.

f587-pinfish-2Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboidsFish caught from coastal waters off Ocean Isle, North Carolina, December 2014. Length: 21 cm (8.3 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.

Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboids. Fish caught off the Vidanta Grand Luxx Resort Pier, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, February 2016. Length: 22 cm (8.5 inches). Catch, photo and identification photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.