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Fishing Hacks: Hogfish on hook and Line

Katie ReinerHog snapper, or simply hogfish, are a member of the wrasse family of fishes.  They are also one of the more exotic looking critters to swim on our Florida coastline. The very long “pig-like” snout and its rooting behavior give the hogfish its name. They are know for their bright orange and salmon color, large snout mouth and rooster like fins off the top of their heads.  The average size ranges from 1 to 4 lbs.

Those who spend a lot of time fishing and diving the wrecks and reefs off Florida’s West Coast will tell you their numbers are definitely on the increase and are being found a lot shallower in recent years. Hogfish live in both the Atlantic and Gulf waters surrounding the Florida Keys.  They like to root around in the sandy bottom surrounding coral patches, wrecks and exposed rock areas.   

While hogfish are caught accidentally more often than not, it is possible to target them with great success using the right tactics.

Hoggies can be found rooting for crustaceans on sandy bottoms edging ledges, reefs and wrecks in Gulf waters at 30- to 130-foot depths. This is key to successfully catching a hogfish. The bait of choice is, hands down, smallish fresh shrimp and/or sand fleas. A medium to heavy spinning rig in the 20 pound test class would be ideal. Florida law requires anglers to use circle hooks when targeting reef fish and hooks no larger than a 2/0 should be employed at the end of a light 15 pound test flourocarbon leader 3-4 foot in length in conjunction with an egg sinker sufficiently large enough to quickly reach the bottom.

Helpful HACK:  peel your shrimp and thread the bait on the hook from head to tail.


A chum block of crustacean make-up lowered to the bottom will enhance your catch considerably. Hogfish strikes are very soft, they simply open their huge jaw and suck in the bait. One of our favorites is produced by Aylesworth Fish & Bait in St. Pete and can be picked up at any local bait & tackle store.

Chum, BAITMASTERS 100% Ground Crab

• Size: 7lb box
• Case Size: 6 – 7lb box
• Producer: Aylesworth’s Fish & Bait
• UPC: 7 10707 09030 2

Fun Fact: Hog Snapper are sequential hermaphrodites; they are born as females and then later change to males. Maturation for most females occurs between ages 2-3. Sexual transition to males occurs after females have reproduced at least once and typically occurs in fish of ages 3-5.

REGULATIONS for Florida and Federal Waters:

The Florida state record is a whopping 19 1/2-pounder taken off Daytona Beach. The size and bag regulations for the species is currently in flux and careful attention should be given to avoid a problem.  State water rules call for a 12-inch fork length and a 5-per-angler-per-day bag as of today.

Federal rules: 12″ total length; 5 per person per day

NEW: Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and East Florida. If approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, several management changes will go into effect in early 2017:

  • For persons harvesting hogfish in Gulf federal waters south of Cape Sable and in all Atlantic federal waters, new regulations include: a 16-inch minimum size limit, a 25-lb. commercial trip limit, a 1-fish/person recreational bag limit, and a May-October recreational season.
  • For persons harvesting hogfish in Gulf federal waters north of Cape Sable, new regulations include a 14-inch minimum size limit.

Lastly, hands down, hogfish is one of the most delicious of all Florida fish.  The very delicate flavor of the whitest filet meat you’ve ever seen make the effort to catch hogfish well worthwhile. Try our latest recipe by Jimmy Hot – Click here.


Check out this video of Capt. Jon Chapman catching a hogfish while fishing offshore of Anna Maria Island, Florida.

5 Responses to Fishing Hacks: Hogfish on hook and Line

  1. OK … How can it be that “their numbers are definitely on the increase and are being found a lot shallower in recent years.”

    When according to wildlife management “Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and East Florida.”?

    We all love them… So let’s make sure that we can have enough Hoggies down there for future generations!

    • Capt. Bill, According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, Gulf stocks for Hogfish are healthy. The Keys and the Atlantic are a different matter entirely. Please see FWC’s position here

      The authors assertion that they (Hogfish) are increasing is observational….

  2. Only problem with supply are locals in the Keys overfishing Hogs and local enforcment is turning their heads and allowing it to happen. I saw this first hand. Same with lobster down there. It’s a “rigged system”.

  3. Recreational anglers and spear fisherman take about 1% of hogfish. The new rules are a hat tip to commercial fisherman who are diving deep to kill the big males. A one fish limit is like telling most divers they only get to shoot one swordfish. They aren’t going to see any 16″ hogs anyway. Game over for recreational hogfish.

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