A MEX­I­CAN IN PANAMA

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS - Pas­cal Ar­tieda Panama Kayak Ad­ven­ture Pedasi, Panama

I caught this fish in shal­low wa­ter, cast­ing a small jig from shore in front of our “wild coast” camp in Panama. It weighed about 2 pounds, but I’ve never caught this species be­fore — what is it?

Well, Pas­cal, you caught a nice ex­am­ple of the Mex­i­can hog­fish, Bo­di­anus diplotae­nia. These trop­i­cal fish range from the cen­tral Baja Cal­i­for­nia coast through­out the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia and south to per­haps Peru. They’re quite com­mon in the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia, but likely less so far­ther south in Cen­tral Amer­ica. They’re rel­a­tively small (to maybe 30 inches long) and mostly soli­tary reef fishes — al­though I have seen them root­ing around rocks in small groups. They’ve been caught in depths to 250 feet, but seem to pre­fer shal­lower wa­ters and some­times just about crawl up onto the beach. Their diet in­cludes crabs, shrimp, clams and the oc­ca­sional fish. Hog­fish are in­ac­tive at night — by sun­down, they are seek­ing shel­ter in caves and crevices. Ju­ve­niles go one step fur­ther and cre­ate a mu­cous “co­coon,” which likely hides their smell from such noc­tur­nal preda­tors as moray eels. This species changes sex: It starts out its re­pro­duc­tive life as a fe­male, and af­ter a few years, be­comes male. Males have a large bump on their fore­head;

your fish’s lack of one sug­gests it’s a fe­male. While not a pri­mary tar­get of ar­ti­sanal fish­er­men, many of the lo­cal fish mar­kets in the Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia and down the Mex­i­can coast sell Mex­i­can hog­fish. — Mil­ton Love

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