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Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus)


Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus)Another fish of the Grunt family (Haemulidae) is the porkfish, a handsome and beautifully­marked species. It was named by Linnaeus, in 1758, from South America, though why he called virginicus "Virginia," is not known.

It is a tropical fish, its range extending from the Florida Keys to Brazil. It is very abundant in the vicinity of Key West, and is seen in the markets daily. It has a short, compressed body, its depth being half of its length, with the back very much elevated. Its head is short compared with its height, with a very steep profile, slightly convex in front and very much arched at the nape.

The mouth is quite small, with thick lips; the jaws are armed with bands of sharp, pointed teeth, the outer row enlarged. The ground color of the body is pearly gray; an oblique black bar, as wide as the eye, extends from the nape through the eye to the angle of the mouth; another broader and jet-black vertical bar extends from the front of the dorsal fin to the base of the pectoral fin; the interspace between the bars is pearly gray, with yellow spots, becoming confluent above; beginning at the vertical bar and extending backward are half a dozen deep yellow, longitudinal, and parallel stripes, the lower ones reaching the caudal fin; all of the fins are deep yellow.

The porkfish resorts to the reefs and coralline rocks, feeding on crustaceans, small marine invertebrates, and small, soft-shelled mollusks, which it crushes with the blunt teeth in its throat. Its usual size runs from half a pound to a pound, but occasionally grows to two pounds. It should be fished for with very light tackle, about the same as used for the pigfish, but with smaller hooks, on gut snells, and cut-conch bait, small shrimps, and beach-fleas.

The porkfish has been known from the time of Marcgrave, over two centuries ago, from Brazil, and from the West Indies for many years, but was not recorded from the waters of the United States until 1881, where it was collected near Key West. As in the case of the yellow grunt and the lane snapper, it is surprising that such long­described and well-marked and beautiful species should have been overlooked in our own waters.