Boar Fish

Boar Fish

  • Scientific name: Capros aper
  • Also know as: Zulu Fish
  • Size: Up to 25cm. Typically 15 – 20cm.
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: 85 grams
  • 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. This species avoids shallow waters and can be found at depths of 50 – 100 metres and in some locations in waters substantially deeper than this.

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. In 2018 it was reported that dead boar fish had washed up around a number of locations across the south west of England with marine biologists unable to explain why the boar fish had appeared in such numbers.

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 species that many UK sea anglers appear to be unaware of. There is a rod caught record from the shore for boar fish – in 1983 Mrs R. Bennet caught an 85 gram (approx. 3oz) specimen when fishing at Rinsey, Cornwall, setting a record which still stands today.

Commercial Value

The small size of boarfish means that there is little edible flesh 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 have seen commercial fishing companies looking into exploiting boar fish commercially in order to process this species into fishmeal – an example of fishing down the food chain.

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