Pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera)


Anglers catch this species in large numbers on hook and line and also in nets in warm temperate waters. It is used mainly as bait for larger predators.

Identification

The pigfish has long anal fins, matching the soft dorsal fin in shape and in size. The head is sloped and pointed, the snout almost piglike, and the lips thin. A background color of bluish-gray is marked with brassy spots in indistinct lines that are horizontal below the lateral line but extend obliquely upward and backward above the lateral line. These oblique markings are also found on the cheeks. The fins are yellow-bronze, with dusky margins.

Age/Size

The maximum length and weight are 18 inches and 2 pounds, but pigfish are commonly 7 to 9 inches long and weigh no more than a half pound. Pigfish normally live for 3 years.

Life history/Behavior

These schooling fish are mostly nocturnal. Spawning occurs inshore in the spring and the early summer, prior to when the fish move into estuaries. Food. Pigfish are bottom feeders that forage on crustaceans, worms, and small fish.

Other Names

Spanish: corocoro burro.

Distribution

The pigfish exists in the western Atlantic, from Massachusetts and Bermuda to the Gulf of Mexico. They are most abundant from the Chesapeake Bay south and do not inhabit tropical waters.

Habitat

Pigfish are found in coastal waters over sand and mud bottoms.
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