Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus

The Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus, whose common Spanish name is burro payaso, and whose local name is bandera, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are ten three species in the genus Anisotremus, six of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Porkfish have deep bodies with a depth that is 48 to 52% of standard length. They have a silvery-gray overall appearance with yellow fins and two distinguishing vertical black bars, the first running through their eyes and extending well into their snout and the second beginning just in front of their dorsal fin and reaching their pectoral fins. They also have yellow horizontal stripes on their sides. They have short heads with blunt snouts and small mouths with thick lips. Their anal fin has 3 wide thick spines, the second being the longest and five times longer than the first and 1.2 times longer than the third. Their caudal fin is forked and their pectoral fins are exceedingly long. All their fins are yellow.

The Porkfish are nocturnal inshore bottom dwellers found around rocky reefs and caves at depths up to 85 feet. They reach a maximum length of 38 cm (15 inches) and weigh up to 1 kg (2.2 pounds). They are preyed upon by snappers, groupers, sharks, and other large piscivores.

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

The Porkfish is the only Grunt located in the Atlantic that has a yellow coloration and two black stripes. It is virtually identical to the Panamic Porkfish, Anisotremus taeniatus, a Pacific Ocean only species (yellow color with silvery-blue stripes) and can be confused with the Blue-and-Gold Snapper, Lutjanus viridis (more aerodynamic body) and the Silvergray Grunt, Anisotremus caesius (lacks black line through eye).

The Porkfish are pursued by both commercial and recreational anglers. They are sold commercially on a limited basis but contain Cigua Toxin. They are generally too small to be a major food fish.

Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Silver Palm Park, Raton, Florida, January 2016. Length: 7.0 cm (2.8 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.