Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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Growing up in Michigan, I was not as well versed in the knowledge of saltwater fish. I knew about Pike, Whitefish, Walleye and Catfish as most of my fishing career was spent on a lake in upstate NY. It was not until I moved to South Florida as an adult, that I even heard of this allusive and indigenous Florida Hogfish. Actually it wasn’t until I started selling fish for a living did I know how popular this fish was. The Hogfish is little known to those outside of the Gulf Coast waters from Sarasota to the Florida Keys.

I imagined some sort of a hybrid between a pig and a fish. Yes there is such a thing as a turducken but I’ve never heard of stuffing a fish into a pig. What I do know is that Hogfish is the “Filet Mignon of the sea” says Siesta Key spear fisherman Danny Ward. 

“Big Water Fish Market is located on the south side of Siesta Key and they serve it up right!” says Ward. This fish is hard to come by and most places cannot put this fish on the menu because they cannot guarantee a consistent inventory. Chef Aaron of Big Water Fish Market does have it on the menu and serves it with his own honey Siracha cream sauce with a steamed seasonal veggie medley. My favorite Hogfish dish on the menu is the Hogfish Sundown which is Big Water Fish Market’s version of a Jamaican fish dish named Rundown. This tasty entrée is a grilled Hogfish filet topped with a spicy coconut cream sauce and served with asparagus.

The look of this fish is where its name comes from with a hog-like snout and man I love the taste. It is hard to even keep this fish in stock as once it hits the retail fish counters or restaurant menu, this delicate, mild fish flies out the door. I would describe this fish as the perfect combination of flavor and texture because they are sweeter than Grouper, flakey like a Cod and as rich as Scallops.

When I say this iconic fish is mild tasting, I mean it. When asked to describe the flavor by my customers I either tell them it’s like biting into a delicious cloud from heaven or it’s the Filet Mignon of the sea. This is a great fish to eat whole (baked or fried) and it is also delicious when served as a filet with a sauce such as a lemon butter caper sauce like a piccata style.

Hogfish is a bit more expensive than the other fish due to the issue of supply and demand. Another reason this fish is a bit rare is because the Hogfish will not bite a hook and line…it’s a very smart fish. This fish actually has to be spearfished. The best Florida Fish mongers have a spear fisherman with a steady shot on the payroll. A missed shot with a speargun can result in damaged flesh.

Caption Aaron and Clark of BWFM bring home the catch combo of Grouper,
Snapper and Hogfish. What a day.

Here are 5 facts about Hogfish that you probably do not know:

1. Hogfish is not from the Snapper family as most people think. It is actually part of the Wrasse family and is more closely related to a Parrot Fish than a Snapper.

2. Hogfish uses its elongated pig like snout to rummage and graze for crustaceans that are buried in the ocean floor. Because it has such a healthy shellfish diet the fish tastes clean with a hint of crab flavor.

3. Juvenile Hogfish start out as female and then become male as they mature.

4. Males tend to be more intensely colored with a signature black spot behind the pectoral fin. Females are pale grey or brown in color.

5. Hogfish have been recorded to live up to 11 years.


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season your 4-ounce hogfish filets (total of 2 pounds of fish) with Big Water Fish Market Deli Dust and dredge in flour. Sauté the fish in oil for about 4 minutes, flipping it halfway through. Remove the fish to a platter. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup white wine whisking for about 1 minute. Add 2 juiced lemons and 2 tablespoons of capers and stir. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk away to incorporate and bring the sauce together. Pour your sauce onto the fish and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. Bon appetit!

Live well….Eat Fish
Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Road ,Crescent Plaza – 941-554-8101
6639 Midnight Pass Road, Crescent Plaza – 941-203-5972

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