- Scientific name: Capros aper
- Also know as: Zulu Fish
- Size: Up to 30cm and 8oz. Typically 15-20cm.
- UK minimum size: N/a
- UK shore caught record: 3oz
- IUCN Status: NE (Not Evaluated)
- Distribution: Fairly widespread distribution throughout Europe being found in Scandinavian waters, throughout the Mediterranean and throughout the North East Atlantic. In Britain this species is most commonly found around the west coast of the British Isles.
- Feeds on: Uses tube like mouth to feed primarily on very small crustaceans, marine worms, shrimps and prawns.
- Description: Thin, oval shaped body – often described as looking like a flatfish on its side. Dorsal fin made up of strong, spiky spines with a distinctive first spine and other fins and tail fin are small. Skin fairly rough to the touch. Eyes are very large and the mouth can be formed into a tube to suck up food. Colour is often bright orange or bright red, although some specimens can be a yellowish/beige colour with darker bars running down the length of the body.
The boar fish is a somewhat strange and unusual fish which has a surprisingly widespread distribution. It can be found along the western coasts of Britain and Ireland with south west Scotland, the Welsh coast and south west England holding populations of this fish. Boar fish are much less common along the entirety of the eastern coast of Britain and Scotland. While they avoid very heavy or rocky ground they will be found over mixed ground and muddy or sandy seabeds. Boar fish generally avoid very shallow waters and are found in waters 50 – 100 metres or deeper.
Feeding and Behaviour
Boar fish live and feed on or around the seabed and often form into shoals. They look for small crustaceans and marine worms which they can pull out of the seabed with their extendable mouth which forms into a tube. As they are generally under 20cm in length they are prey for larger fish such as pollock, bass and cod and must spend the majority of their time looking out for predators while they search for food themselves. Boarfish can reproduce when they are around three years old and 10cm in length.
Rod and Line Catches
Due to their size and deeper water habitat boar fish are a very rare catch from the shore and are a fish that many UK sea anglers appear to be unaware of. There is a rod caught record from the shore for boarfish – in 1983 Mrs. R. Bennet caught a 3oz specimen when fishing at Rinsey, Cornwall, setting a record which still stands today.
The small size of boarfish means that there is little edible flesh available, and the unusual shape means that filleting is difficult. For these reasons boar fish have been ignored as a commercial fish and those large enough to be caught in trawls are usually discarded as bycatch or used to bait crab and lobster pots. However, recent years (and the decline of more common food fish such as the Big Five) have seen commercial fishing companies looking into exploiting boar fish commercially. As this article explains Irish fishing companies are looking to increase catches of boar fish and mince and tin the fish for export to Asia or Africa where a species like this would be easier to market and sell – a perfect example of fishing down the food chain.