Fresh From The Salt

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Feature Stories 2011

Volume 2, Issue 4, October 2011: Hog Huntin' Nearshore Spearfishing for Hog Snapper

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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 4, October 2011:  Hog Huntin’ – Nearshore Spearfishing for Hog Snapper, we view the saltwater angling world from a slightly different view – an underwater one.  On this particular trip, I was eager to try out my brand new underwater housing (good to 130 ft.) for my Cannon digital camera.  Having used a very nice Nikonos V underwater camera during my film days in the early 90s, I wanted to return to taking shots from the fish eye level.  Shooting photos in our watery world, in this case free diving, is not as easy as it may seem.  Nearshore to offshore waters can have rough seas, high winds, and fast currents.  Combine all of these elements together at the same time and it can be a frustrating experience.  Nevertheless, on this particular day, we had fair seas and minimal current so I was able to get off a few good shots of the job at hand – spearfishing for what is probably the best table fare in the entire Gulf of Mexico, the hog snapper.  These fish can be found in a variety of different depths, depending on how north or south you are up and down our coast.  Most times, with good bottom structure, they’ll be found in anywhere from 15 to 100 feet. Launching from the northernmost areas of our West Central coast, finding deeper water takes long runs as the depth increases only gradually.  Launching from the southernmost areas of our coast, finding deeper water takes significantly shorter runs.  In any case, this hook-and-line shy fish is a relatively easy target for experienced spear-fishermen and can be learned by novices in short order.  They are not all that spooky, so can be taken with a modern speargun, or even more traditional methods such as pole spears and Hawaiin Slings.  However you harvest this fish, it’s the quality of the meat that everyone’s after. Cook up some hog for the first time and you’ll be right back out huntin’!

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in our local Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.


Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)

Hog Huntin' Nearshore Spearfishing for Hog Snapper

By Joshua W. Broer

I’ve been spear-fishing for hog snapper, hogfish to most – named for their pig-like snout, for the better part of two decades now.  As most folks know, these fish are hook-and-line shy and a rare catch from the boat.  So, to fill the icebox with them, arguably the most delicious fish in the ocean, you need to get wet.  Depending on the depth you find them, hogfish can be hunted in a number of different ways.  I’ve dove deep wrecks with SCUBA gear and powerful spear guns, free-dove shallow reefs with pole spears and Hawaiin Slings, and have used hookah diving rigs for near-shore trips.  It’s a fun hunt, and an even better eat. 

Whichever way you stalk them, they’re not all that spooky and will usually line up for a clean, easy shot.  Hogfish are found up and down our entire Gulf Coast.  They love structure.  Many spear fishermen have great GPS numbers and know where to find them year-round.  For those new to the game in our West Central area, look for wrecks, rock piles and small ledges.  They’ll usually all hold fish.  Depths can differ greatly in terms of how deep to look.  If heading out from our more southern counties, the water gets deep more quickly, making for a shorter ride out.  If heading out from our more northern counties, the water gets deep at a much more gradual rate, making for a considerably longer ride out.

I recently joined a few friends for a hog hunting trip in our area.  On this particular trip, 45 feet was the magic number.  We didn’t immediately find good numbers of fish, but moving from one type of structure to another within the same general area proved successful.  The moral here – if you at first don’t find good concentrations of hogfish, it’s not necessary to run a long distance to your next set of numbers.  Some areas contain miles and miles of rocky bottom and small ledges.  Just pull anchor, idle around, and watch that bottom machine.  Shows of fish might be just a few hundred feet away.

This particular hunt was unique in that three different methods of getting to the bottom were used.  One of our divers used traditional SCUBA techniques and good old-fashioned air tanks.  Another two divers used a very powerful, effective and safe device known to most as a “hookah rig”.  The hookah is more or less an onboard, gas-driven generator that supplies air to up to four hoses.  These excellent machines have been used for years in the Keys for spiny lobster season as they are better-suited for shallow-water dives.  With an average hose length of 150 feet per diver, they also allow for slightly deeper dives – in this case, spearing hogfish in the Gulf.  I chose to free-dive to reach my prey, something I’ve been successful at before.  Alas, slightly older and slower now and the bottom being just out of reach, I settled for photo duty.

Despite an approaching cold front and some rougher than expected conditions on the ride back to the dock, we ended up with our limit of hogs (5 per angler per day, 12” minimum measured to the fork of the tail).  Gag grouper season having just opened two days prior, we bagged a few of those guys too.  But make no mistake about it, hog snapper, as most in the know will agree, might just be the best tasting fish in the Gulf of Mexico.  The filets are extremely white – almost transparent.  And the texture is firm, unlike many of our other edible fish out there such as mackerel and trout which have soft and oily meat.  But most of all, it’s that uniquely sweet taste that keeps us on the hunt.  So don your gear, grab your gun, and plunge on down there.  Because hog huntin’ brings home the bacon!