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FISHING
FISH SPECIES

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1
graysnapper.gif (52633 bytes)

GRAY SNAPPER
(Lutjanus griseus)
OTHER NAMES: Mangrove Snapper, Black Snapper, Mango, Caballerote
RANGE: All Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Juveniles are seasonally
present in nearly all shallow waters and coastal estuaries of Florida, and are
plentiful throughout the year in the
southern half of Florida, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Upon reaching a size of 10 or 12 inches, nearly all Gray Snapper switch their homes to deeper waters and are fished mostly over coral reefs,
artificial reefs, wrecks and Gulf ledges, although big ones can also be caught in deep channels and passes along the coast. In the Panhandle, the bigger fish of deep water are called Black Snapper.
DESCRIPTION: Gray or greenish above and light on the underside, usually with an overall reddish hue that can range from coppery to bright brick red. Obvious black line runs from the snout through the eye to just below the dorsal fin. This line darkens when the fish feeds or gets excited.
SIZE: Few surpass 1 foot inshore, but Grays can average 2-6 pounds in deep water, and reach perhaps 20 pounds or more. World and Florida records 17 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent up to a pound or so. Large ones are stronger in taste but still very good.
GAME QUALITIES: The little fellows can be easy to catch on dead shrimp or cut bait, but as they grow they become more difficult to fool. It's generally necessary to trim down the size of hooks, leaders and terminal tackle. When hooked, Gray Snappers make strong runs, then wage a bulldogging battle all the way to boatside.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Inshore spinning and light baitcasting rigs are best and should be baited with live shrimp, live minnows, fiddler crabs, cut shrimp, cut squid or cut baitfish. Many inshore Grays are also caught on lures, along mangrove shorelines or around snags. Surface plugs and popping flies often catch Grays, as do jigs and small shrimp flies or streamers. Offshore, heavier spinning and baitcasting tackle, and light ocean tackle, are called for. Best baits are live small fish, such as Pilchards and Sardines, live shrimp, cut squid, cut crab and cut fish.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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21

redsnapper.gif (50975 bytes)

RED SNAPPER

 

(Lutjanus campechanus)
OTHER NAMES: North American, Red Snapper, Genuine Red, Snapper, Pargo Colorado
RANGE: A temperate fish rather than tropical, the Red Snapper is rare in South Florida, although caught occasionally. It is standard bottom-fishing fare, however, offshore of the Atlantic Coast from about the center of the Peninsula northward, and in deep waters of the northern Gulf.
HABITAT: Along the Panhandle, Red Snappers are sometimes found in fairly shallow water off the beaches, and even in deep holes of the larger bays. Off the Peninsular Gulf Coast, however, few Red Snappers are found close enough to shore to merit a one-day effort; most offshore Snappers along that part of the coast are Grays.
DESCRIPTION: Overall rosy red. Canine teeth less prominent than those of most other Snappers. Red eye. Anal fin is triangular. The Caribbean Red Snapper, Lutjanus purpureus, is very similar in appearance and is found in the northwest and central Caribbean.
SIZE: Common from a pound or so to about 6 or 8 pounds. Usual maximum is about 20 pounds, although the Red Snapper can rarely run as high as 30 or 40 pounds. World record 50 pounds, 4 ounces; Florida record 46 pounds, 8 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent at all sizes.
GAME QUALITIES: A hard-fighting fish that uses strong, head-shaking tactics rather than long runs.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Some Red Snapper spots in fairly shallow water, say up to 50 or 60 feet, permit the use of light ocean tackle, or even heavy spinning and baitcasting tackle. Much Snapper fishing, however-trips from Panhandle ports requires deep drops in strong currents. This means that only very heavy rods and strong lines of 50- or 80-pound test can handle the heavy weights needed to do the job. As for baits, dead Cigar Minnows, Pilchards or cut fish and squid do well at times, although in heavily fished spots (which most are these days) it will probably be necessary to use live small baitfish to coax bites from Snappers of decent size.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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3
muttonsnapper.gif (49120 bytes)

MUTTON SNAPPER
(Lutjanus analis)
OTHER NAMES: Muttonfish, Reef King, Pargo
RANGE: The Mutton Snapper more or less takes over for the Red Snapper in South Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean. On the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Muttons are common on the reefs as for north as, roughly, Fort Pierce, but gradually give way to Red Snapper after that. In the Gulf, few Muttons are caught north of the Keys, although they turn up now and then in the bags of offshore
bottom fishermen all along the Gulf Coast.
HABITAT: Juveniles inhabit inshore grass beds, coral patches and channels. Adults are primarily inhabitants of the deeper reefs, although many are found in near shore deep channels and passes of South Florida, the Keys and the Bahamas. Big Muttons even sneak up on certain "tailing flats" occasionally, to forage in the manner of Bonefish and Permit.
DESCRIPTION: Coloration varies widely with size and habitat. Juveniles in shallow water are very bright, with an overall rosy appearance and mostly red fins. Adults are greenish above and red on the lower sides and underside. All sizes show blue lines in the gill cover and along the back, with a single black spot near the dorsal fin about three-quarters of the way to the fin. Vague vertical bars may be present. Anal fin is pointed.
SIZE: Inshore average is 1-2 pounds. On reefs and in deeper water, the average is 5 pounds or more, with individuals up to 15 pounds not uncommon. Maximum is probably around 35 pounds. World record 28 pounds, 5 ounce; Florida record 27 pounds, 6 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent.
GAME QUALITIES: Muttons are strong fighters in deep water, and can be dazzling ones in shallow water or atop the tailing flats, getting off long runs and then resisting with strength and broad sides.
TACKLE AND BAITS: For reef fishing, light ocean tackle is ideal and the best baits are live Pinfish, live Pilchards, live or cut Ballyhoo, big live shrimp and fresh cut baitfish. Light spinning or baitcasting tackle is an excellent choice inshore, when tossing jigs and plugs in channels or over grass beds and rocks. In shallow water, Muttons smash surface plugs readily. When encountered on sight-fishing flats, the same tackle is used as for Permit or Bonefish. Live crabs make the best bait here, with live shrimp also acceptable. Permit jigs and flies will also do the job, if presented well.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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4
lanesnapper.gif (46766 bytes)

LANE SNAPPER
(Lutjanus synagris)
OTHER NAMES: Spot Snapper, Cady Snapper, Biajaiba
RANGE: Found off all coasts of Florida.
HABITAT: Most are caught in fairly deep reef and offshore waters, but in the southern half of the state, they also inhabit near shore areas, and even bays. During times of warm water, they may come close to shore in the northern sectors as well. Prefers broken or grassy bottom to hard reefs.
DESCRIPTION: Superficially similar to small Mutton Snapper, with which it may be confused. However, the Lane Snapper, in addition to its rosy hues, also has broken yellow bars along the sides, and its fins are mostly yellow. The single black spot on the side is larger, proportionately, than that of the Mutton. The anal fin is rounded.
SIZE: Most run well under 1 pound. Occasionally caught to 5 pounds in deep water. World record 7 pounds; Florida record 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Very good, but flesh is soft and must be kept well iced.
GAME QUALITIES: An aggressive striker of both natural and artificial baits, the Lane is fun to catch but is not a particularly strong fighter, even for its size.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Only very light tackle provides much sport. Productive baits include live and dead shrimp and also strips of cut squid or cut fish. Small jigs worked slowly near bottom are deadly.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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5
cuberasnapper.gif (48730 bytes)

CUBERA SNAPPER
(Lutjanus cyanopterus)
OTHER NAMES: Cuban Snapper, Cuban Dog, Snapper
RANGE: South Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Through most of the tropics, the Cubera is at home anywhere from coastal creeks out to the deep reefs, but in Florida it is now rare to find them inshore, although one may still pop up from time to time in a creek or canal of South Florida and the Keys. Creeks of the larger Bahamas Out Islands also harbor a few of them. Most are caught around wrecks and reef dropoffs in 100-200 feet of water off Dade County and Key Largo, but they may surprise anglers at times in offshore waters anywhere from the Dry Tortugas to about halfway up the Florida Peninsula.
DESCRIPTION: The Cubera looks like a gigantic Gray Snapper and, in fact, oversize Grays–those longer than a couple feet–are almost always confused with sallish Cuberas. To really tell the difference you have to check the patch of vomerine teeth on the inside roof of the mouth. In the Gray, this patch is shaped something like an arrow, complete with shaft. That of the Cubera is of similar shape but has no shaft; it looks like an inverted "V".
SIZE: The giant among Snappers, Cuberas often reach or exceed 100 pounds, and the average is 30-50 pounds. World record 121 pounds, 8 ounces; Florida record 116 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent to about 40 pounds. Larger ones tend to coarseness, and carry the possibility of causing Ciguatera poisoning (see Introduction).
GAME QUALITIES: A real brawler that uses its size, strength and every obstacle in the vicinity to great advantage.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Realistically, ocean gear with lines testing upward of 50 pounds should be used for Cubera fishing, even though quite a few big ones have been caught on lighter lines and occasionally even on heavy spinning and plug tackle by deep-jigging anglers. Most Cuberas caught by design are taken at night off North Key Largo and South Dade during the summer months. By far the best bait is a whole live lobster. Whole live blue crabs make a fair substitute, as do live Blue Runner and similar baitfish. Cuberas are perfectly willing to take dead baits too, but usually get beaten to them by smaller fish.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.


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6
dogsnapper.gif (50429 bytes)

DOG SNAPPER
(Lutjanus jocu)
OTHER NAMES: Yellow Snapper, Jocu
RANGE: Most of Florida plus Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Adults mostly prowl the coral reefs of South Florida, the Keys and Bahamas. Elsewhere, it is occasionally caught offshore. Juveniles live in shallow rocky areas of tropical shoals and
shorelines.
DESCRIPTION: The name comes, of course, from the canine teeth, which seem even more prominent than in most other large Snappers. Overall coloration is light orange or yellowish, darker on the back and lighter on the sides. The tail and dorsal fin are deep yellow or orange, while the other fins are lighter yellow. There is a broken blue streak on gill cover below the eye and a white, V-shaped patch on the gill cover, under the blue markings.
SIZE: Although most catches run only a couple of pounds, the Dog Snapper is not uncommon at 10 or 15 pounds and can reach 30 or more. World record 24 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent in all sizes.
GAME QUALITIES: A strong fighter.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Offshore, Dog Snappers are less common than Gray Snappers but are taken on the same tackle and baits usually light to medium ocean-fishing outfits with lines to 30-pound test. Best baits are live baitfish and cut Ballyhoo or squid.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

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7
schoolmaster.gif (49819 bytes)

SCHOOLMASTER
(Lutjanus apodus)
OTHER NAMES: Barred Snapper, Caji
RANGE: All Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Juveniles are plentiful in shallow coastal waters, as they grow, they work into deeper and deeper water. Dense schools are often encountered by divers over shallow wrecks and certain coral patches–making the name derivation obvious. Biggest Schoolmasters stick to reefs and dropoffs in deep water.
DESCRIPTION: Deep-bodied and overall yellowish, with several prominent vertical white bars on the sides. In the largest specimens, these bars may be nearly invisible, and so lead to confusion with the Dog Snapper. Another similarity is that both have a blue line, usually broken, on the gill cover. The Schoolmaster, however, does not have the white cone-shaped patch on the gill that identifies the Dog Snapper. Since most Schoolmasters are rather small and vividly striped, their identity is pretty obvious.
SIZE: Averages a pound or less in shallow water. Big individuals on the deep reefs may reach 6 or 7 pounds. World record 4 pounds, 5 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent.
GAME QUALITIES: Equivalent to other Snappers of similar size.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning and baitcasting outfits. Live or dead shrimp, squid and small fish are all acceptable baits. Schoolmasters will take small jigs on occasion but are seldom enthusiastic about them.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

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8
yellowtail.gif (37094 bytes)

YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER
(Ocyurus chrysurus)
OTHER NAMES: Flag, Tail, Rabirubia
RANGE: Yellowtail are common only in South Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, although add catches are made in other areas of the state, especially
offshore Gulf reefs.
HABITAT: Small fish grow up around shallow coastal reefs and patches. Best fishing depths in most areas are 60 to about 120 feet, with nearly all the "Flags" coming from the deepest habitat. Yellowtail school heavily and hang around dropoffs or humps.
DESCRIPTION: Identified by a yellow stripe that runs the full length of the body from forward of the eye to the deeply forked yellow tail. The stripe is vivid in young fish, but pales with maturity. Color above the line is bluish with yellow patches; silvery white below. No prominent teeth as in most other Snappers.
SIZE: From less than a foot in coastal shallows to an average of 1-3 pounds on deep reefs. "Flags" running as heavy as 4 or 5 pounds are common, and a few run to 7 or 8 pounds. World record 8 pounds, 9 ounces; Florida record 8 pounds, 8 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent if fresh or well-iced.
GAME QUALITIES: Pound-for-pound, among the best of reef fishes. Because most are hooked high in the water column, they usually make long, strong runs. Yellowtail are masters at cutting lines on the edge of a dropoff, or fouling them on high reef growth.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Undersize fish in the shallows will greedily hit nearly any bait or lure. Yellowtails of decent size, however, are almost always caught in outside reef areas. They are among the wariest of biters, generally requiring lighter lines, leaders, hooks and sinkers than the angler would really like to use. Regulars mostly try to get by with spinning tackle and 15-pound line, but on many days must go to 12-pound lines or smaller, to produce or sustain any action. Small dead baits cut fish, cut squid and pieces of shrimp catch the most Yellowtails because those baits are similar in size and buoyancy to the ground chum that is used to lure them close and turn on their appetites. In many areas of the Bahamas and Caribbean, Yellowtail are caught by trolling a variety of lures, or by casting with small jigs, and even flies. Best luck anywhere is likely to come at night.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.

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9

vermillionsnapper.gif (43357 bytes)

VERMILLION SNAPPER
(Rhomboplites aurorubens)
OTHER NAMES: Beeliner, Mingo, Cajon
RANGE: All Florida coasts; more common northward.
HABITAT: Prefers the same depths as the Red Snapper, with which it often mixes. A common panfish around offshore deep wrecks, reefs and ledges of the upper Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Like the Red Snapper, it is more of a temperate than a tropical fish, and is unfamiliar to most anglers in the southern reaches of the state.
DESCRIPTION: Rosy red above, fading to pinkish then whitish below. Red fins. Large eye. Similar to the Red Snapper in color but easily distinguished in addition to much smaller average size by the lack of prominent "snapper teeth", and by its rounded anal fin.
SIZE: Averages less than a pound. May rarely reach 5 pounds or slightly larger. World record 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: An excellent panfish.
GAME QUALITIES: Poor. Most are caught on too-heavy tackle at considerable depth not a sporting combination for a small fish.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Since the Vermillion is caught in greatest quantity by partyboat fishermen, the usual tackle consists of rods and reels stout enough to handle the hoped-for Snapper and Grouper. Even if the fisherman specifically targets Vermillions, he generally has to use the same tackle and heavy sinkers, switching only to smaller hooks. When conditions are favorable enough to permit getting down with weights of an ounce or so, spinning and baitcasting tackle are more productive and certainly more fun. Beeliners usually bite greedily at any sort of small dead bait, including cut fish, squid and shrimp.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

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10

mahoganysnapper.gif (46395 bytes)

MAHOGANY SNAPPER
(Lutjanus mahogoni)
OTHER NAMES: Ojonco
RANGE: South Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Tropical reefs, although not common anywhere. Occasionally caught in the Keys, but more are seen in the Bahamas.
DESCRIPTION: Brightly colored, but with little of the reds and pinks that characterize most tropical Snappers. Back and upper sides are tan to deep brown. The underside is silvery. Dark spot on lateral line below posterior dorsal fin. Eye large.
SIZE: To perhaps 3 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent.
GAME QUALITIES: Good as other small Snappers.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Spinning, baitcasting and light ocean outfits with small hooks and sinkers and cut bait. This is an odd catch that crops up now and then among mixed bags of small reef fish.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing.

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11

blackfinsnapper.gif (42066 bytes)

BLACKFIN SNAPPER
(Lutjanus buccanella)
OTHER NAMES: Blackspot, Snapper, Bahamas Red, Snapper
RANGE: South Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: Nearly all are caught along outside dropoffs at depths of 200 feet or greater. Most are caught in the Bahamas.
DESCRIPTION: Vivid red overall, with black crescent-shaped mark at base of the pectoral fin.
SIZE: Averages 3 or 4 pounds; usual maximum is 10 or so. World record 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent.
GAME QUALITIES: Strong fighter like other Snappers.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Blackfin Snapper generally stay well beyond the depths of anchoring. Most are caught while drifting and jigging off cliffs and ledges. Blackfin eagerly strike a heavy bucktail or nylon jig.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting.

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12

silksnapper.gif (43478 bytes)

SILK SNAPPER
(Lutjanus vivanus)
OTHER NAMES: Yelloweye
RANGE: All Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: These are deep-ocean Snappers that are seldom caught any shallower than 300 or 400 feet, and are common at 100 fathoms and deeper.
DESCRIPTION: The Silk Snapper is pink overall and is shaped much like the Red Snapper, although the yellow eye distinguishes it. The pectorals are pale yellow and the back portion of the caudal fin has a black edge.
SIZE: Averages 3 to 5 pounds. Maximum sizes uncertain. World record 18 pounds, 5 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent; probably the best of all the Snappers. In general, however, it can be observed that all the edible species of fish hauled up from great depths make exceptionally fine table fare.
GAME QUALITIES: No battle can be expected, thanks to the great depth and the non-sporting gear required.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Anglers are unlikely to encounter this fish unless they fish very deep with several pounds of lead, stout rods and electric reels for meat or curiosity, rather than sport. Commercial fishermen pull them up with motorized winches. Any sort of cut bait can be used.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Specialized deep systems only.

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13

queensnapper.gif (28875 bytes)

QUEEN SNAPPER
(Etelis oculatus)
RANGE: All Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
HABITAT: This is another deep-ocean Snapper that is seldom caught any
shallower than 300 or 400 feet, and is
probably most common at 600 feet and deeper.
DESCRIPTION: The Queen Snapper is bright red on its upper and lower sides, and shaped more like the Yellowtail. It has silvery sides and a deeply forked red tail that continues to lengthen as the fish grows. The eye is very large and yellow.
SIZE: Averages 3 to 5 pounds. Maximum sizes uncertain. World record 11 pounds, 11 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent; probably one of the best of all the Snappers, although the same can be said of other Snappers that come from the deepest habitats.
GAME QUALITIES: No battle can be expected, thanks to the great depth and the non-sporting gear required.
TACKLE AND BAITS: As with other deepwater Snappers, the Queen isn't seen by anglers unless they're using lots of lead and hefty gear. Any type of cut bait can be used.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Specialized deep systems only.

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