All About Florida Keys Fishing & Key West Fishing

    Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus
    Hogfish are large wrasses (family Labridae) that inhabit areas of moderate-high relief in
    shelf waters from North Carolina south throughout the Caribbean Sea to the northern coast of
    South America. Juveniles can be found in shallow seagrass beds in Florida Bay (Tabb and
    Manning 1961). Mature hogfish have sex-specific coloration and are protogynous
    hermaphrodites, i.e., they begin life as females then change to males (Davis 1976). Ages of
    hogfish have not been validated but scale marks seem to indicate that females reach 3 years old
    and about 14.2" long before they change to males (Davis 1976). Males get as large as 27.6" fork
    length (FL), and marks seen on the urohyal (gill arch bone) suggest a maximum age of 11 years
    (Claro et al. 1989). Females first mature to spawn at 7.9" FL. Males transform from females and
    are able to first spawn at 10.2–11.8" FL (Davis 1976). Peak spawning occurs during February
    and March in south Florida and may vary due to a narrow temperature requirement, 24°C–27 °C
    (Colin 1982).

    Juvenile hogfish are reported to feed on benthic crustaceans, mollusks, and echinoderms
    (Sierra et al 1994; Randall 1967). Adults consume bivalves, gastropods, sea urchin, crabs, and
    other mollusks (Sierra et al 1994; Randall 1967). Adult hogfish feed mostly by winnowing hard
    shelled animals from the bottom substrate and crushing their prey with their pharyngeal jaws
    (Clifton and Motta 1998).
    Florida landings of hogfish totaled 181,792 pounds in 2005. The recreational fishery
    accounted for 82% of the total statewide landings that year. Seventy-one percent of the
    statewide landings in 2005 were made on the gulf coast. Commercial landings were highest in
    Dade County on the Atlantic coast and Monroe and Pasco Counties on the gulf coast (Fig. 1).
    Recreational landings were highest in the southeast regions of Florida on the Atlantic Coast, and
    evenly distributed along the gulf coast (Fig. 2). Landings made in the Big Bend region of the
    gulf coast probably come from catches made on or near the Florida Middle Grounds in the
    eastern Gulf of Mexico. The 2005 total landings were 13% lower than the average landings in
    the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 42% lower than the historical average landings
    (1982–2005). Atlantic coast landings of hogfish increased steadily between 1990 and 1995 then
    generally fluctuated between years of high landings (80,000 pounds) and low landings (40,000
    pounds) through 2005 (Fig. 3). On the gulf coast, annual hogfish landings decline rapidly
    between 1992 and 2000, followed by a slight increase through 2005 (Fig. 3). More recently
    annual landings on the gulf coast have averaged about 160,000 pounds. The 1984 high value
    estimated for hogfish landings on the gulf coast is probably an indication of the degree of
    variability in the early recreational catch estimates that used small sample sizes. In fact, the
    aberrantly high landings estimate was the result of two angler interviews that recorded catchrates
    of 100 hogfish per trip. Early estimates of recreational harvest are quite imprecise for
    hogfish, partly because few hogfish anglers were interviewed during any given year.
    Commercial catch rates on the Atlantic coast declined between 1996 and 2000 and have
    held steady through 2005 (Fig. 4). Catch rates for commercial fishers on the gulf coast has
    remained at a relatively stable level throughout the period examined, 1992-2005 (Fig. 5).
    Hogfish are not caught efficiently using hook-and-line gear so angler catch rates are of limited
    value in estimated changes in relative abundance. The observed recreational catch rates have
    fluctuated on both coasts with no apparent trends (Figs. 6, 7).
    The latest stock assessment (SEDAR and SAFMC 2004b) indicated that hogfish was
    severely overfished (both growth and recruitment) and has been for the last two decades in
    Florida waters. The estimated total fishing mortality rate for 2001 was F=0.57, which is four
    times greater than FMSY = 0.13. The peer-review of this assessment found that there was
    qualitative evidence suggesting that hogfish were growth overfished but insufficient evidence to
    determine the status of the stock (SEDAR and SAFMC 2004b). McBride and Murphy (2003)
    examined the status of the hogfish fishery, particularly in reference to the effect of the 1994
    minimum-size regulation on hogfish landings in Florida, and explored some costs and benefits of
    increasing the minimum legal fish size to increase the yield-per-recruit of hogfish. Results from
    this study indicated that, until 2000, the sizes of most hogfish landed in Florida were very similar
    to the 12-inch (305mm) FL size limit. Hogfish at this size are predicted to be age-3, but this
    species grows to 824 mm (32.4 inches) FL and reaches age-25. The observed maximum size is
    lower in south Florida, where mortality is greatest, suggesting that growth overfishing is
    occurring in this region. The yield-per-recruit analysis conducted by McBride and Murphy
    (2003) indicted that maximum yield-per-recruit for hogfish would occur at a size larger than the
    current mean size of fish harvested.
Download complete report
(including figures)
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Upper Keys Fishing
Marine Fisheries News
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