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 Snappers
 

 


 Distribution & Size

There are 15 species of snappers in Florida waters.  Because of their slow growth rate the regulations governing these species is complicated and anglers should consult the regulations so they do not fall foul of the law. The five most common species of snapper are the Gray (Black or Mangrove) Snapper, Lane, Red, Yellowtail and Mutton Snappers.  Because of the slow rate of growth many of the snappers became scarce due to over fishing.  Their numbers over the last years have seen a revival which is probably due to netting bans and other regulations.

The Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) Color pinkish red over entire body, whitish below. Long triangular snout. Anal fin is sharply pointed. No dark lateral spot. Red eye. Juvenile red snapper occur over sandy or mud bottoms. Sexual maturity is attained at age 2. A standard bottom feeding fish and is found on the Atlantic coast and the more northern deep waters of the gulf.  It is still found however in the south and middle Florida. General size is up to 20lbs.  Juveniles are found over sandy or a mud bottom and are often caught in shrimp trawls. Adults may live more than 20 years and obtain a weight of  35lbs. 
The Florida record is 46lbs 8ozs caught near Destin. 
The World Record is 50lbs 4oz. which is some fish !

The Lane Snapper ( Lutjanus synagris) Color silvery-pink to reddish with short, irregular pink and yellow lines on its sides. Diffuse black spot, about as large as the eye. The dorsal fin centered above the lateral line. The outer margin of caudal fin blackish. Juvenile lane snapper are found inshore over grass beds or shallow reefs. Adults are typically found offshore and are most common in south Florida. Lane snapper spawn from March through September. They are sexually mature at 6 inches. Lane snapper feed on the bottom, eating crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. Has a state wide distribution but tends to leave the northern part of Florida during the colder months. It is the smallest of the major species.  Most are caught of the fairly deep reefs and offshore waters.  During times of very hot weather they can be found in inshore waters.
The Florida record is 6lbs 6ozs caught near Pensacola and the World record is 7lbs.

The Vermillion or Mingo Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens) Color of entire body reddish, with a series of short, irregular lines on its sides, diagonal blue lines formed by spots on the scales above the lateral line; sometimes with yellow streaks below the lateral line; large canine teeth absent; orientation of mouth and eye give it the appearance of looking upward; no dark lateral spot. Suspends at mid-depths over rocky reefs OFFSHORE. Spawns April to September, females maturing at 3 to 4 years of age; grows slowly; attains weight of 6 pounds and length of 24 inches; feeds on small, swimming crustaceans and mollusks. This species is not currently eligible for a state record. Juvenile gray snapper are found inshore in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds. Adults are generally found nearshore or offshore on coral or rocky reefs. Is the smallest of the five most common species caught.  Its habitat area is the same as that of the Red Snapper.  The average fish rarely exceeds 1lb and a fish of around 5lb is unusual. 
The World record is 7lbs 3ozs.

The Gray (Black or Mangrove) Snapper (Lutjanus griseus) Dark brown or gray with reddish or orange spots in rows along the sides. A dark horizontal band from snout through eye is present in young only. Two conspicuous canine teeth are present at front of upper jaw. Dorsal fins have dark or reddish borders. No dark spot is present on side underneath dorsal fin. are found from the mangrove and salt marsh fringes to the bays and offshore hard bottoms areas, wrecks and coral reefs. Gray snapper caught offshore are common 8 to 10 pounds.
The Florida record for the Gray Snapper is 16lbs 8ozs. which is also the World record as well.

 

Yellowtail snappers (Ocyurus chrysurus) are distinguished by a yellow streak on the side of the fishes body running from the head to the tail. Back and upper sides olive to bluish with yellow spots; lower sides and belly with alternating narrow, longitudinal pink and yellow stripes; prominent midlateral yellow stripe begins at mouth and runs to tail, broadening as it passes the dorsal fins; caudal fin yellow and deeply forked; no dark lateral spot. Juveniles INSHORE on grassbeds and back reefs; adults NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE over sandy areas near reefs. Spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates. The best place to catch this specie is in the southeast of Florida, especially the keys.
The Florida record for the Yellowtail Snapper is 8lbs 9ozs and the World record is 8lbs 9ozs caught near Ft. Myers.

Another Keys specialty is the Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis). Color olive green on back and upper sides. All fins below the lateral line having reddish tinge. Bright blue line below eye, following contour of operculum. Anal fin pointed. Small black spot below dorsal fin. V-shaped tooth patch on roof of the mouth. Mutton snapper are an inshore species associated with grassbeds, mangroves, and canals. Larger adults are occasionally found on offshore reefs. It is an occasional catch in offshore waters and other parts. These snapper spawn in July and August. Mutton snapper feed on fish, crustaceans, and snails. The Florida record is 30lbs 4ozs and was captured near the Dry Tortugas.

Mahogany Snappers (Lutjanus mahogonare) Color grayish-olive with a reddish tinge. Conspicuous dark spot, about the size of the eye, is located below the soft dorsal fin, 1/4 to 1/2 of it below the lateral line. The large eye and caudal fin are bright red. Lower margin of the preopercle has prominent spur with strong and sharp serrations. Found nearshore or offshore in clear, highly saline water, usually over reefs. Mahogany snappers are night feeders and eat mainly smaller fishes. This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Queen Snappers (Etelis oculatus) are common offshore over rocky reefs of the continental shelf to 450 feet deep. Young queen snapper suspend at mid-depths. There is little is known about the queen snapper, but it is reported that adults live at depths greater than 400 feet. This species is not currently eligible for a state record. Queen snapper are a small species, usually less than 20 inches.

Cubera Snappers (Lutjanus cyanopterusJuveniles) are found inshore in grass beds. Adults are common offshore and nearshore over wrecks, reefs, and ledges. Cubera snappers are the largest of the snappers, ranging to 125 pounds. They are not common anywhere in its range. These snapper feed on fishes and larger crustaceans. Spawning occurs in the late summer in the Keys.

Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella) Color is generally red, with yellowish caudal, anal, and pelvic fins. Distinctive and prominent dark comma-shaped blotch at the base of the pectoral fins, which gives the fish its common name. The anal fin is rounded. No black spot found on the side underneath dorsal fin. Adult Blackfin Snapper are found offshore near the continental shelf. Blackfin snapper are sometimes marketed as red snapper and you can see why because of there physical similarity in color. They feed on smaller fishes. This species is not currently eligible for a state record. Common to 20 inches, larger adults seeking deeper waters.

Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu) Color brown with a bronze tinge, lighter on sides. Canine teeth are very sharp and one pair is notably enlarged, visible even when the mouth is closed. In adults, a pale triangle and a light blue interrupted line are below the eye. No dark spot is found on the body underneath dorsal fin. Large adults are found offshore over coral and rocky reefs. Juveniles are associated with estuaries. Dog snapper spawn from spring through fall. Known as night feeders, these snapper eat fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans. This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Schoolmaster Snapper (Lutjanus apodus) Color olive gray on upper sides with yellow tinge, sometimes with reddish tinge around head. Long triangular snout. Eight pale vertical bars on the side of the body. Yellow fins. Blue stripe below eye, becoming interrupted in adults. No dark lateral spot. Juvenile schoolmaster are found in grassy flats. Adults frequent nearshore, especially around elkhorn coral reefs. Large adults are sometimes found on the continental shelf. These fish spawn in July and August. Schoolmaster may attain sizes up to 8 pounds and 24 inches. They feed on crustaceans, small fishes, and gastropods. This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Silk Snapper
(Lutjanus vivanus) Back and upper sides pinkish red, shading to silvery sides with undulating yellow lines. Pectorals are pale yellow. Back edge of caudal fin is blackish. Anal fin pointed. No dark lateral spot. Silk snapper are common offshore over rocky ledges in very deep water. They are most common in south Florida. Little is known about the behavior of the silk snapper. This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

 General Information

Some Snapper spots may be in as little as 25 to 100 feet and light tackle may be used.  They are however usually caught in much deeper water requiring heavier tackle and weights.  Best baits to use are pilchard or fresh cut fish or squid.   They are the easiest of the saltwater fish to catch.

 Tackle & Bait

Standard bottom fishing tackle is the most effective.

 Eating Qualities

Excellent food value in all sizes and is sold in most supermarket outlets. A great eating fish and is one of my favorites.

 State Limits and Regulations

As the State Regulations are in constant flux we advise anglers to refer to www.MyFWC.com/fishing for the latest information.

TO COMPLICATED-----THEN TAKE YOUR LAWYER FISHING !

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