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Porgy family species, their habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

Porgies are small to moderately large spiny-rayed fishes of the family Sparidae, included in the order Perciformes. The sheepshead, scup, and red sea bream are species in this family. They inhabit shallow temperate waters and tropical marine and estuarine waters from shore to depths of over 100 m. Porgies live in shallow temperate marine waters and are bottom-dwelling carnivores. The fishes in this group tend to stay close to the bottom near rocky outcrops but are mobile, often traveling in loose aggregations or multi-species schools. They feed on benthic invertebrates inhabiting rocky surfaces of the reef or in the sand near the reef. Most species possess grinding, molar-like teeth. The group includes porgies, grunts, goatfishes and wrasses. They are ecologically similar to snappers and grunts. Most are excellent food-fishes and are of considerable commercial importance. Many are also important to recreational fishermen.

Distribution: tropical and temperate Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The genus Calamus consists of about 13 species, all of tropical and subtropical American waters. 2 species occur in the eastern Pacific, and 11 occur in the western Atlantic. 8 species are known from coastal waters of the United States. The grass porgy and the Iittlehead porgy are two common porgies of the western Atlantic Ocean. The grass porgy is essentially restricted to the northeastern Gulf of Mexico and is fairly abundant in shallow water off the northwest coast of Florida. The Iittlehead porgy occurs on the east coast of Florida, in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, in the Greater Antilles, and on Campeche Bank where it is one of the most important commercial fishes. The most important characters for separating species of Calamus are: Number of lateral-line scales; total number of pectoral fin rays; number of dorsal and anal fin rays; dentition; eye diameter; suborbital depth; length of pectoral fins; length of the longest dorsal spine (usually the third spine); body depth; color; and steepness of profile of the head. The structure of the fins is essentially the same in this family as in the sea basses; both spiny and soft portions of the dorsal are well developed and the ventrals are situated below the pectorals.
    Body oblong, most deep and compressed with large head, often with a steep upper profile; snout scaleless, cheeks scaly, preopercle with or without scales, without spines or serrations on margin; opercle scaly without spines; mouth subhorizontal and slightly protrusible, upper jaw never reaching backward beyond a vertical line through middle of eye; hind tip of premaxilla overlapping maxilla (maxilla hidden by a sheath when mouth is closed), jaw teeth well developed, differentiated into either conical (canine-like), or flattened (incisor-like), and often rounded, molar-like; roof of mouth (vomer and palatines) toothless; gillrakers variable, 7 to 20 inferior on first arch. Dorsal fin single, with 10 to 13 spines and 9 to 17 soft rays, the spiny and soft portions not separated by a notch, anterior spines sometimes elongate or filamentous; anal fin with 3 spines and 7 to 15 soft rays, the spines, especially the second, often stout; pectoral fins usually long and pointed; pelvic fins below or just behind pectoral fin bases, with 1 spine and 5 soft rays, and an axillary scale at their base; caudal fin more or less deeply emarginate or forked. Scales cycloid (smooth) or weakly ctenoid (rough to touch); a single continuous lateral line extending backward to base of caudal fin. Overall color highly variable, from pinkish or reddish to yellowish or greyish, often with silvery or golden reflections, often with dark or coloured spots, stripes or bars. Porgy Family Species diagram
There are important anatomic differences, however, most obvious of which are that the edge of the gill cover does not end with a sharp spine in the porgies but is rounded or at most bluntly angular; and that the maxillary bone (the bone forming the margin of the upper jaw) is sheathed and hidden by the preorbital bone when the mouth is closed. Long, pointed pectoral fins are likewise characteristic of the family; the spiny and soft portions of the dorsal fin are continuous, and the soft rayed anal fin is about as long as the soft part of the dorsal.

    Porgies are some of the most under-appreciated food fish of the Gulf of Mexico. In the northern Gulf, the most common members of the family are found in inshore waters. The Sheepshead is familiar to most fishermen with its vertical black and white stripes, and the Pinfish is mostly known as a baitstealer, and sometimes bait fish. At least five more species are caught in offshore waters of the Gulf: the red porgy, the whitebone porgy, the knobbed porgy, the jolthead porgy and the longspine porgy.
    All of them share two things: 1) they are usually tossed back in the sea or cut up for bait. 2) Most fishermen don’t realize they are delicious tablefare, at least as good as snappers. Porgies also are much more common than their catch would indicate because their specialized diets (except for the red porgy, which commonly eats fish) make them difficult to catch.

    Many species have been found to be hermaphroditic; some have male and female gonads simultaneously; others change sex as they get larger. Premier food and game fishes.


    The sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, is a marine fish, also known as convict fish, sheephead, sheepshead seabream, and southern sheeps head are common English language names. Other common names include kubinskiy morskoi karas’ (Russian), rondeau mouton (French), sargo (Spanish), sargo chopa (Spanish), sargo-choupa (Portuguese), and sparus owczarz (Polish). Convict Fish Bait-stealer. Black vertical bands stand out against dull white, gray or yellowish background. The mouth is full of massive, protruding teeth that give the fish its name, and distinguish it from the juvenile Black Drum , the only fish with which it is likely to be confused. Spines of the dorsal and anal fins are heavy and sharp. Inhabits areas of rocky bottom, from far up coastal creeks and rivers, to well offshore. Loves dock and bridge pilings, artificial reefs and any other structure that wears barnacles and/or harbors crabs. Forages for crustaceans, at times, on shallow soft-bottom flats in the manner of Redfish or Bonefish. One of the best, thanks in great part to its shellfish diet. Not an aggressive strike; very tough on light tackle. Pulls hard and uses flat shape to advantage. Still Fishing methods with light spinning and baitcasting tackle. Best baits are fiddlers or other small crabs; cut pieces of blue crab; live or fresh-dead shrimp (threaded on the hook); pieces of oysters and clams. Sheepshead will readily hit slow-moving jigs tipped with these baits and, occasionally, will take the bare jig.


    Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides), is a marine fish, also known as Spanish Porgy, Shiner, Sargo, Chopo Sina. Silvery with many narrow longitudinal yellow lines and, sometimes, dim vertical bars. Dark patch just behind gill cover. Spines of dorsal and anal fin are sharp, hence the name. Most run 3-6 inches, but may range as high as a pound or more. Inhabits inshore grass flats in warm or temperate weather, retreating to deeper water with dropping temperatures. They also can be found around other cover, such as rocks and bars. Only the largest species are really suitable for the table; small ones have excessive and tiny bones. They are aggressive striker and zippy fighter, much like a small Jack. Drifting or Still Fishing methods with bits of cut shrimp, fish, or bacon, fished on tiny hooks with canepoles or spinning outfits, will catch the most.

Spottail pinfish

    The Spottail Pinfish, Diplodus holbrookii is an ocean-going species, is also known as Porgy, Spot, Spot-tail Porgy, Spot Porgy, San Pedra, and sailor's choice. Somewhat rounder in shape than the Pinfish. Color is brownish above, silvery below. The name comes from a black patch on caudal peduncle. Averages size is 6-8 inches but can grow to a pound. Often large enough to make a decent panfish but have tiny bones. Seems to roam farther offshore than the Pinfish, although the two often mix around shorelines. Drifting or Still Fishing methods with light spinning outfits with cut shrimp, squid or fish.

Silver Porgy

    Silver porgy, Diplodus argenteus, also known as sparkling spot porgy or spottail pinfish occur in Western Atlantic: Southern Florida, Bahamas, Antilles, and coast of South America, from Brazil to Argentina, including Uruguay. Confused with the Spottail Pinfish because both have a black spot on the caudal peduncle. However, the Silver Porgy's spot is both lighter and proportionately smaller. This fish is also lighter in color and has thin yellowish stripes and, often, dark vertical bars. Averages 6-8 inches; rarely exceeds a pound. Inhabits Likes reefs or rocks in clear, shallow water. Many are found in Bahamas shorelines. They are very good food value but bony, very strong and fast for its size. Drifting or Still Fishing methods with ultralight or light spinning tackle, baited with bits of cut fish or shellfish.

Grass Porgy

    Grass Porgy - Calamus arctifrons, also known as Grass Bream, Shad Porgy. Upper body greenish; silvery sides with dark blotches over sides and tail, often resembling a camouflage pattern. Dark vertical bar through eye. Averages around 1 pound; seldom grows larger. Inhabits grass beds in up to 20 feet or so of water. Strong fighter for its size, Good food value. Drifting or Still Fishing methods with light spinning and baitcasting tackle, with live or dead shrimp and various cut baits. Usually taken when fishing for Snapper or Seatrout.

Knobbed Porgy

    Knobbed Porgy, Calamus nodosus, also known as Key West Porgy, occur in the western Atlantic from North Carolina southward to and including most of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, the Bahamas and Cuba. Knobbed Porgy have deep body; front profile very steep; nape projects strongly in large adults. Color is a silvery with reddish tint; cheek and snout dark purplish gray, with many bronze spots; large blue spot at axil of pectoral fin. Head is steeply sloped and front edge is purple. They preferred range is gulf wide on hard bottom at depths from 50 to 300 feet deep, usually caught over coral reefs or patchy bottom in 70 feet of water or more. Common up to 4 pounds; occasionally larger. They are strong if unspectacular fighter with an excellent food value. Most are caught drifting or still fishing deep by anglers seeking Grouper and Snapper; thus, the usual gear is fairly heavy ocean tackle. Stout baitcasting or spinning outfits are better suited to the task, however. Cut pieces of fish or squid are preferred baits.

Whitebone Porgy

    The Whitebone Porgy, Calamus leucosteus, also known as White Porgy, Silver Porgy, Silver Snapper, is a silvery white fish with inconsistane darker splotches along his flank. The body is oval, flattened from side-to-side and is fairly deep. Color is silvery white, with irregular brown markings or spots of varying intensity on the sides, more like splotches than spots. The fins also often have some brown markings, and occasionally the sides bear brown crossbars. Blue lines may be apparent under the eye and on the head. Color is a silvery white, sometimes with dark blotches or patterns. Blue lines on head. Common up to 4 pounds; occasionally larger. They usually inhabit in fairly deep water, 15-100 feet, over rocks, reefs or patchy bottom. Their food value are very good; bones can be filleted out. Most are caught drifting or still fishing deep by anglers seeking Grouper and Snapper; thus, the usual gear is fairly heavy ocean tackle. Stout baitcasting or spinning outfits are better suited to the task, however. Cut pieces of fish or squid are preferred baits.

Jolthead Porgy

    Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado, also known as Bajonado, are a plain silvery fish, scales with blue centers and brassy margins. The body is laterally compressed and deep, and its depth being half its length. Head is more sharply sloped than that of other Porgies. Brownish pattern may be evident in fish caught over dark bottom, but most are light. A whitish stripe below eye, and another between eye and mouth; corner of mouth orange. One of the largest Porgies, it averages a couple of pounds and sometimes even more. Inhabit over inshore grass flats as well as on offshore reefs and patches. They are unspectacular but strong with very good food value. Drifting or Still Fishing methods with light spinning outfits with cut shrimp, squid or fish.

Saucer-eye Porgy

    The Saucer-eye Porgy, Calamus calamus, also known as Big-eye Porgy, Pez De Pluma is a silver-colored fish with no dramatically distinctive markings. The Saucereye's name is derived from a blue line below the eye that causes the eye to appear larger. Color usually is silvery, with the blue streaks that are common to several of the Porgies. Common size is 2 - 3 lbs; reaches up to 7 – 8 lbs. They are usually found in waters as deep as 100ft but also as shallow as just a few feet. They are very strong puller, with very good food value. Most are caught drifting or still fishing deep by anglers seeking Grouper and Snapper with heavy tackle. Stout baitcasting or spinning outfits are better suited, however. Cut fish or squid.

Red Porgy

    Red Porgy, Pagrus pagrus, also known as Pinky, Pink Porgy, Rose Porgy, Strawberry Porgy, Guerito is one of the most popular sparid fish species in the Mediterranean region and the Atlantic coast. It is the only American porgy with a near nostril that is round (not slit-like); head and body silvery red, with many tiny blue spots. They are light, reddish silver overall, with pinkish tail. Averages is 2-10 lbs; may reach 20 lbs or more. They inhabit deeper part of continental shelf, at least 200 feet; also far deeper, but young can occur in water as shallow as 60ft. The red porgy is not considered as big fighter and have an excellent food value. Drifting fishing methods with cut baits is the best with heavy bottom rigs, preferably with electric reels.

Littlehead Porgy

    Littlehead Porgy, Calamus proridens, also known as Daubenet Titete in French, Plumajoroba in Spanish, is one of the smallest and prettiest of the porgies, and is called Little¬head in contradistinction to the jolt-head or big¬head porgy. It is almost identical in shape to the saucer-eye porgy, both in head and body. Littlehead porgy have a compressed, deep body that is somewhat circular in shape. They have a distinct hump on the back just before the dorsal fin. The tail fin is deeply forked, and the head, as their name suggests, is small and ends in a short snout. They inhabit inshore and near shore, mostly found over sponge and coral bottom, usually hugging close to the bottom. Though young Littlehead porgy are found in shallow waters near shore, adult Littlehead porgy are almost always located further out to sea. Littlehead porgy are known for their good fighting qualities despite their relatively small size. They are also known to be quick to take a hook, though most are caught accidentally while fishing for other species. Like most porgies, they are usually caught with bottom fishing techniques.

Scup / Porgy

    The scup, Stenotomus chrysops, is a fish which occurs primarily in the Atlantic from Massachusetts to South Carolina. Along with many other fish of the family Sparidae, it is also commonly known as porgy. The scup is about one-half as deep as it is long (to the base of the tail fin) and very thin through, recalling a butterfish. The mouth of the scup is small, its eyes are situated high up on the side of the head, and the margins of its gill covers are rounded. Dull silvery and iridescent, somewhat darker above than below; the sides and back with 12 to 15 indistinct longitudinal stripes, flecked with light blue and with a light-blue streak following the base of the dorsal fin. The head is silvery, marked with irregular dusky blotches; the belly is white. Can reach a length of 18 inches and a weight of 3 to 4 pounds, but adults usually run only up to about 12 to 14 inches, and weigh only 1 to 2 pounds. They are fished by recreational fishermen and are a fine eating fish. They are favorite with anglers, for it bites greedily and is a good pan fish. Great numbers of them are caught on hook and line for home consumption.
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