Jolthead Porgy (Calamus bajonado)

A member of the Sparidae family, which includes about 112 species, the jolthead is an excellent food fish with some commercial value and a species that bottom-probing anglers often encounter along the eastern United States; it has been associated with ciguatera, however. The common name presumably comes from the fish’s habit of using its head to bump or jolt clams or other mollusks loose from their attachments.


The high, rounded forehead gives the body a distinctive profile, typical of the genus. It eyes are large and are located high on the head. Yellowish-brown, with an almost metallic luster, it may be blotched with dusky splotches or nearly solid in color, depending on the bottom over which it is swimming. Some individuals are grayish. Over each eye is a blue streak, and sometimes there are faint blue lengthwise stripes on the body. The caudal fin is lunate (crescent-shaped).


Among the largest of the porgies, this species is typically 20 inches long, but it can attain a length of 26 inches and a weight of 23 pounds. The all-tackle world record is a 23-pound, 4-ounce specimen.

Food and feeding behavior

The diet of jolthead porgies is sea urchins, crabs, and mollusks. Small schools are often seen feeding near shore.

Other Names

porgy; Spanish: pluma bajonado.


The jolthead porgy occurs in the western Atlantic, from Rhode Island to the northern Gulf of Mexico, including Bermuda, and south to Brazil. It is most abundant in the West Indies.


The jolthead occurs in coastal environs over vegetated sand bottoms and more frequently on coral bottoms between 20 and 150 feet deep. Large adults are usually solitary.