SCIENTIFIC NAME: Trinectes maculatus
CHARACTERISTICS: Besides being characterized by having its eyes and mouth on the right side of its body, the hogchoker lacks pectoral fins. The exposed side and fins are mottled in appearance. Six or seven dark vertical bars are present along the gray-green to brownish side, with more diffuse, less organized pigment found between the bars. A single row of spots extends along the lateral line from the gill cover to the caudal fin, and two large, diffuse spots are found on the sides in the middle of the body adjacent to the dorsal and anal fins. The hogchoker has small eyes with the top eye situated in front of the lower eye. The underside is white.
ADULT SIZE: 3 to 6 in (75 to 152 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Trinectes maculatus is found from Massachusetts to Venezuela, including the Gulf of Mexico. In Alabama, the hogchoker occurs throughout estuarine and nearshore habitats and in fresh water, penetrating to Coffeeville Lock and Dam on the lower Tombigbee River and well upstream of Claiborne Lock and Dam on the Alabama River. Most collection records of this species in the Conecuh, Pea, and Choctawhatchee river systems were obtained during our sampling efforts from 1991-94.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Small hogchokers are found well upstream in fresh tidal inlets and around grass beds near tidal creek mouths. Large individuals are found around bay mouths in deeper waters. Most spawning takes place during the summer in lower estuarine areas. However, our observations of many individuals less than 1 inch (25 mm) in total length during a 1990 fish survey at Claiborne Lock and Dam could indicate limited, though as yet unsubstantiated, freshwater spawnings. Inland abundance is also influenced by upstream larval migrations during late summer when river discharge decreases and a salt wedge moves upstream along the bottom of the Mobile and possibly the Alabama and lower Tombigbee rivers. Dove et al. (1969) suggest that small hogchokers remain in fresh water for up to three years and return to brackish nursery areas in their fourth year to spawn. This theory could explain the occurrence of large individuals in lower bay passes and would indicate habitat partitioning by fish of different ages. Food items of this species include small crustaceans and worms.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Bloch and Schneider described the hogchoker in 1801.
Trinectes means three swimming, referring to the dorsal, ventral, and caudal fins.
Maculatus means spotted.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.