A MEXICAN IN 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