Out of all the fish in the sea, hogfish are definitely the ones for me!
Hogfish belong to the second largest family of marine fishes, the wrasses, but instead of having a long, cigar shaped body like most wrasses, it’s body is laterally compressed and round. They are mostly found in the western Atlantic Ocean, commonly in the Bahamas, Florida Keys and in the Gulf of Mexico but can also be found in South America. The hog fish gets its name for it’s long, pig-like snout and it’s protrusible mouth. Hogfish are not commonly caught on hook and line because they root on the bottom in search of mollusks and crustaceans which make up the bulk of their diet. The only way they can be harvested is through spear fishing.
Like most wrasses, hogfish change their sex throughout their life. In the beginning stages they are female and are usually a pale brown/gray color. As the females reach maturity and about 14 inches long, they switch to their male counterparts. Males are beautiful and are distinguished with their very long snouts and deep, orange/red color which is often pearled with white.
Besides being an absolute beautiful fish, they are SO incredibly tasty. They have white, semi-firm flesh and are not “fishy” by any means. I can actually eat it raw, right as we are fileting it. That’s how good they are.
Hogfish are my FAVORITE fish to hunt when I go spear fishing. Who cares about grouper when you can harvest hog fish!! I swear, every time I’m diving and I see a big male hog fish, excitement runs through my veins! I don’t bother with the females even if they are legal size. This is how I do my part in conserving this species; being selective and taking only what I need.
The last dive trip Scott and I went on, I shot a decent sized male. It was a bit of a circus show down there and Scott and I still laugh about it to this day.
We dropped down on our second spot and I heard Scott pull the trigger. I turned around to see this gigantic male, hovering the water, with it’s mouth wide open, up against a rock. Scott missed. I aimed my gun, took the shot and just skimmed his back. Without thinking, I loaded my second spear and instead of taking another shot, I tried to pin him up against the rock.
Since I’m no fish (although I’d like to think I am) and do not have the quick agility like my gilled counterparts, it was an idiotic move. In my brain I envisioned me moving quickly and efficiently with the end result of pinning him (sort of like a warrior back in the day, spearing big game). That fish moved quicker than I could count to one and disappeared into the rock formation.
I was determined. I wanted that fish, and I wanted him NOW. I pulled the bands back on my second shaft and went on a hunt. I swam above the rock formation, looked down, and there he was; half hidden behind the rock. I took my shot and pinned him.
Yes. Success! I couldn’t wait to bring him home and provide a freshly caught meal for my family.
My very favorite way of preparing hog fish is simple: Coat it with freshly grated, raw parmigiano reggiano and then coat it with seasoned bread crumbs. So simple, so good.
Here’s my recipe. For the breadcrumbs, parmigiano-reggiano and eggs, start with 1 cup for the dry ingredients and two eggs. If you’ve used all of it before you’ve exhausted your filets, add more. If you can’t get hog fish where you are, you can substitute it for a similar white fish. Halibut would make a good alternative.
- 2-4 decent sized filets, deboned
- 1 cup (or more) plain breadcrumbs (with a good ingredient label)
- 1 cup (or more) grated/shredded parmigiano-reggiano
- 2-3 pastured eggs, beaten
- 1 Tbl homemade italian seasoning (recipe here)
- unrefined sea salt (where to buy)
- black pepper
- lard, coconut oil or tallow to fry in
- Grab 3 medium sized bowls. Put breadcrumbs and italian seasoning in one, parmigiano reggiano in one and 2 eggs in the last.
- Salt and pepper the fish to taste
- Dip each filet in egg; then parmigiano; then egg again; then breadcrumbs (get your fingers dirty and make sure to pat the cheese and breadcrumbs onto the filets
- Do this until you've exhausted your filets
- In a large pan (I use my cast iron), on medium heat, add enough lard (that's what I use) to coat the bottom
- When the oil is hot, place filets in and don't over crowd
- Fry for a few minutes on each side; you want golden brown but you don't want to over cook it
- Do this until you've exhausted your filets
- Enjoy this meal with fresh sauteed veggies (with lots of butter) and white rice cooked in homemade stock (with lots of butter!)