by Robert Trosset
May 1st marks the opening of grouper season in state. May 1st marked the start of hogfish season in 2019. The next few months will be filled with excellent weather and water that warms up to bath temperature in late summer. As the water gets warmer the fish seem to get uncomfortable and move deeper to find a cool relief. I always say early in the season is the best time to get out and find those hogfish in the shallow waters around the Keys before they move deeper.
Freediving for hogfish is one of my favorite in water activities. I start looking in the shallow waters on the back side of the main reef. 20 ft down they can be difficult to spot but with practice and clear water you should be able to find some nice trophy fish and tell the difference between a parrot fish.
Hogfish tend to school in large groups. There is typically one larger male and a bunch of smaller females. If you are swimming around and start to see one smaller fish, stop and hang out for a little while. Often the rest of the school will show up shortly and present a nicer fish. Take your time because they can be difficult to spot.
Stick to the sandy areas around the coral reef. The hogfish feeds by rooting around in the sand looking for small shrimp, crabs, and other prey. They will travel across coral but rarely present the beautiful easy side shot that it is famous for on the move.
The best thing about hogfish is how they taste. Make sure to take a great picture and share it @finzdivecenter to show your friends before you enjoy a great meal.