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Florida Sportfishing Species

Family Lutjanidae


Description: Color 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; anal fin rounded; no black spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Other snappers.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE near continental shelf.

Size: Common to 20 inches, larger adults seeking deeper waters.

Remarks: Sometimes marketed as red snapper; feeds on smaller fishes.

Description: Color dark brown or gray, may have a reddish tinge; broad-based triangular tooth patch on roof of mouth with a posterior extension; despite its specific name, which translates to "blue-fin," the fins have only a slight tinge of blue; canine teeth in both jaws very strong; one pair of canines enlarged and visible even when mouth is closed.

Similar Fish: Gray snapper.

Where found: Juveniles INSHORE in grass beds; adults OFFSHORE or NEARSHORE over wrecks, reefs, and ledges.

Size: Common to 40 pounds.

Remarks: The largest of the snappers, ranging to 125 pounds; not common anywhere in its range; feeds on fishes and larger crustaceans; in the Keys, spawns during later summer.

Description: Color brown with a bronze tinge, lighter on sides; canine teeth very sharp, one pair notably enlarged, visible even when mouth is closed; in adults, pale triangle and a light blue interrupted line below the eye; no dark spot on body underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Schoolmaster, L. apodus (no white triangle under eye and fins are more yellow); other snappers.

Where found: Large adults OFFSHORE over coral and rocky reefs; juveniles associated with estuaries.

Size: Large snapper, attaining 30 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns from spring through fall; known as night feeder; taking fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans.

GRAY SNAPPER (mangrove snapper)
Description: Color dark brown or gray with reddish or orange spots in rows along the sides; dark horizontal band from snout through eye (young only); two conspicuous canine teeth at front of upper jaw; dorsal fins have dark or reddish borders; no dark spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Cubera snapper, L. cyanopterus.

Where found: Juveniles INSHORE in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds; adults generally NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE on coral or rocky reefs.

Size: Offshore catches common 8 to 10 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish.

Description: 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; outer margin of caudal fin blackish.

Similar Fish: mutton snapper, L. analis (anal fin rounded in lane snapper, pointed in mutton).

Where found: juveniles INSHORE over grass beds or shallow reefs; adults OFFSHORE; most common in south Florida.

Size: usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: spawns March through September; sexually mature at 6 inches; feeds on bottom, taking crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.

Description: Color graysh-olive with a reddish tinge; conspicuous dark spot, about the size of the eye, 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.

Similar Fish: Lane snapper, L. synagris (also with dark spot below soft dorsal, the blotch placed higher in relation to the lateral line).

Where found: NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE in clear, highly saline water, usually over reefs.

Size: Relatively small snapper, common to 15 inches.

Remarks: The Spanish name, ojanco, refers to its large eyes; a night feeder, with diet of smaller fishes.

Description: 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.

Similar Fish: Lane snapper, L. synagris (anal fin pointed in mutton snapper, rounded in lane).

Where found: An INSHORE species associated with grassbeds, mangroves, and canals; larger adults occasionally found on OFFSHORE reefs.

Size: Common to 15 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns in July and August; feeds on fish, crustaceans, and snails.

Description: Color of back and upper sides red; silvery body long and slender; dorsal fin distinctly notched; large eyes; caudal fin deeply forked; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Other snappers.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky reefs of the continental shelf to 450 feet; young suspend at mid-depths.

Size: Small species, usually less than 20 inches.

Remarks: Little is known, but it is reported that adults live at depths greater than 400 feet.

Description: Color pinkish red over entire body, whitish below; long triangular snout; anal fin sharply pointed; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Vermilion snapper, R. aurorubens.

Where found: OFFSHORE on the continental shelf, more plentiful off the panhandle than in south or middle Florida.

Size: to 20 pounds.

Remarks: Juveniles occur over sandy or mud bottoms and are often taken in shrimp trawls; adults may live more than 20 years, and attain 35 pounds or more; sexual maturity attained at age 2; spawns June to October; feeds on crustaceans and fish.

Description: 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.

Similar Fish: Dog snapper, L. jocu.

Where found: Juveniles in grassy flats; adults NEARSHORE especially around elkhorn coral reefs; large adults sometimes found on continental shelf.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: Spawns in July and August; attain sizes of 8 pounds and 24 inches; slow grower; feeds on crustaceans, small fishes, and gastropods.

Description: Back and upper sides pinkish red, shading to silvery sides with undulating yellow lines; pectorals pale yellow; back edge of caudal fin blackish; anal fin pointed; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Red snapper, L. campechanus.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky ledges in very deep water; most common in south Florida.

Size: Usually less than 5 pounds.

Remarks:Little is known.

Description: 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.

Similar Fish: Red snapper, L. campechanus (anal fin of red snapper has midpoint like a triangle).

Where found: Suspends at mid-depths over rocky reefs OFFSHORE.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: 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.

Description: 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.

Similar Fish: none.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE on grassbeds and back reefs; adults NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE over sandy areas near reefs.

Size: common to 3 pounds.

Remarks: found mainly in tropical waters; spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates.





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