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Hogchoker

Trinectes maculatus

Hogchokers only grow to about 6 inches long. (Charles & Clint/Flickr)
Hogchokers only grow to about 6 inches long. (Charles & Clint/Flickr)

The hogchoker is a small, flat fish with a brown, rounded body. It is abundant year-round throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

  • Flat, rounded body
  • Dark brownish-gray on top and pale on the bottom
  • Narrow, black, vertical lines or spots on the top side of the body
  • Small eyes that are both located on the top side of the body
  • Rounded head with a small mouth
  • Dorsal and anal fins stretch around the body from the head to the tail
  • Rounded tail fin
  • Grows to about 6 inches long

Habitat:

  • Found in both shallow and deep waters
  • Prefers sandy, silty or muddy bottoms
  • Bottom-dweller

Range:

  • Lives in the Chesapeake Bay year-round
  • Ranges from tidal fresh water to the Bay’s mouth
  • One of the most abundant fish in the Bay

Feeding:

  • Eats worms and crustaceans
  • Hunts for its prey by lying half-buried in bottom sediments while both eyes look up

Predators:

  • Conceals itself from predators by burying itself in bottom sediments and changing colors to blend in with its surroundings

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from May-September in inshore waters
  • Young are born with one eye on each side of the head. As larvae, the left eye gradually travels over the top of the head to a position next to the right eye.
  • Can live to 7 years old

Other Facts:

  • The unusual name "hogchoker" comes from farmers who used to feed this fish to their hogs. The hogs would often have a hard time eating the fish’s scaly, bony body.
  • Considered to be a "right-handed" flatfish because its mouth and eyes are on the right side of the body when viewed from above
  • It is nearly impossible to spot a hogchoker that has buried itself

Sources and Additional Information:

  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Hogchoker – Gulf of Maine Research Institute



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