Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides)

This abundant, small member of the Sparidae family is important as forage for predatory species of fish and is widely used by anglers as bait. There was once a fairly good commercial fishery for pinfish, but it is now a minor one; the flesh is oily and has a strong flavor.


The pinfish has a compressed panfishlike body, with a head that is high through the area just in front of the dorsal fin. It has a small mouth and incisorlike teeth with deeply notched edges. Its coloration is silvery overall, with yellow and blue horizontal stripes. A round black spot at the upper rear margin of each gill cover is distinctive. The name of the species comes from the needle-sharp spines on the first dorsal fin. All fins are yellowish.

A similar small porgy, the spottail pinfish (Diplodus holbrooki), averages less than 10 inches in length, but occasional larger individuals do exist. It is identified by the large black band across the base of the caudal peduncle and by the black margin on the gill covers.

Otherwise, the body is silvery, with only faint black bars. The spottail pinfish is common over rocky bottoms and around docks and piers. In the Caribbean it is replaced by the almost identical silver porgy (D. argenteus).


Pinfish are capable of growing to 15 inches, but they rarely reach 10 inches in length and are common at about 7 inches. They live at least 7 years and probably longer.

Food and feeding habits

Pinfish consume crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and occasionally small fish associated with grassy habitats. They nibble at most foods, a habit that makes them a nuisance for anglers fishing with bait for other bottom-dwelling species.

Other Names

bream, saltwater bream, sailor’s choice, Canadian bream; Spanish: sargo salema.


The pinfish occurs in the western Atlantic, from Massachusetts to the northern Gulf of Mexico, including Bermuda, to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The spottail pinfish is found in the Gulf of Mexico and in Florida.

Habitat/Spawning behavior

Pinfish are coastal and inshore species that travel in schools, sometimes in great numbers, over vegetated and sometimes rocky bottoms and around docks and pilings; they also frequent mangrove areas and may enter brackish water or fresh-water. Pinfish move out of coastal waters in the winter, and spawning occurs in the winter in offshore waters.