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Updated: 03/14/2014 08:06:17AM

See you

next year,

hogs

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Hogfish, hog snapper, photo by Jason Arnold

By Capt. Ralph Allen

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Hogfish are beautifully colored fish that, in my opinion, might be the firmest, whitest and mildest meat of any fish that can be caught in Southwest Florida. Their primary prey is reported to be marine snails, but they do eat some crustaceans and anglers sometimes accidentally catch a few hogfish while fishing offshore in the Gulf for snapper. You probably won’t see a hogfish in Charlotte Harbor, but if you fish with shrimp on offshore ledges from about 30 to 60 feet of water during the winter months, you’ll likely catch a few. (I think that the most hogfish I’ve ever seen taken on rod and reel on a single offshore trip in our area was five). Divers are somewhat more successful taking hogfish with spears than are hook-and-line anglers, and spearfishermen can almost always pop a few hogfish on an offshore dive. Well, not any more this year in federal waters. In a relatively surprising move, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced over the Thanksgiving weekend that hogfish harvest was being closed from Dec. 2 to Dec. 31 in federal waters of the Gulf. The NMFS has estimated that the allowable catch for hogfish in 2013 has been reached, and as a result, the fishery is closed until the beginning of the new year when a new allocation kicks in. It’s not known whether the FWC will also close hogfish in state waters to mirror the federal closure, so stay tuned.

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