Although called hog snapper, this species is actually a member of the wrasse family. They are relatively large and colorful compared to other members of this family. The color of hog snapper varies greatly and is influenced by age, gender, habitat and immediate environment. They are often solid white, but they can also be a speckled orange, brown or copper color. The rear dorsal fin often has a small black dot at its base, especially in younger fish. The edges of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins have dark bars. Generally speaking, males are more colorful, and young hog snapper change color more quickly.
Hog snapper are unique mostly to the subtropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. At its extreme, the range for hog snapper extends from Nova Scotia in Canada to Brazil. But the common range spans from North Carolina to Bermuda to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost coast of South America. The greatest concentrations of hog snapper are found around Florida and the islands of the West Indies.
Hog snapper reside in coastal waters, especially in reef areas populated by coral organisms. They also prefer areas in which they can camouflage themselves among the reef and plants. Generally they are found in water between 10 and 120 feet deep.
Almost nothing is known about the reproductive habits of the hog snapper. Scientific studies indicate that a female hog snapper distributes around 300,000 eggs, though the number can be as high as 830,000. Like most marine fish, the eggs are scattered and fertilized externally.
Hog snapper feed primarily during the day on mollusks, crabs and sea urchins. In a year they will consume nearly five times their body weight.
Anglers are most likely to locate this species in sandy grass beds around reefs. These are areas in which they can camouflage themselves within the environment which, combined with their preference for relatively deep water, makes them difficult to locate visually.
Because they are bottom feeders, bottom-fishing tactics are usually employed. Light spinning and bait-casting or conventional gear with line weights of 8 to 15 pounds is common. Effective natural baits are crabs, shrimp and shovelnosed lobster. Hog snapper generally ignore artificial lures, though small jigs tipped with natural bait can often work. The best action usually occurs very early or late in the day, as well as at night.
Given their high-quality meat and taste, and the difficulty in catching them consistently, many hog snapper are taken by divers with spear guns.
· Hog snapper are a high quality food fish that is regarded by many as the best tasting of all the reef fish. They are marketed both fresh and frozen. Unfortunately, populations of hog snapper are under pressure due to intense fishing.