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The Dog Snapper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods

Dog Snapper, Pacific Dog Snapper or Pacific Cubera Snapper is the largest of the snappers; growing to at least 80 lbs. Marketed fresh and frozen, this snapper is an excellent food fish and is greatly prized as a sport catch. This species is a strong fighter and a tough sportfish that can be caught on live baits, jigs, spoons, feathers, plugs, or pork ring fished of trolled. It is distinguished by its massive size, a wide body that varies from deep red to light red in color, with 8 or 9 bars on the upper half of its sides and a silvery color on its bottom. The dog snapper has 4 uncommonly large canine teeth (2 in the upper jaw and 2 in lower), one pair of which can be seen when the jaw is closed. These canine teeth give the dog snapper a fierce look, hence its common name.
The Dog Snapper Fishing Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novemfasciatus, also known as Pacific Dog Snapper or Pacific Cubera Snapper, is a member of the Lutjanidea or Snapper Family, which are known in English as snappers, and in Mexico as pargos. Its range extends from New England to northeastern Brazil, including the West Indies, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. It is abundant along the Florida Keys, has been taken on the Massachusetts coast in summer. In Mexico it is found from Magdalena Bay on the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula, throughout the Sea of Cortez and along the mainland south to Guatemala.

Dog Snapper has a robust, compressed, comparatively deep body, its depth a 1/3rd of its length, and the back elevated over the shoulder. Its head is large, somewhat longer than the depth of the body, with a straight profile and a rather long and pointed snout. The Dog Snapper also has its famous canine teeth which are longer than the pupil diameter of its eye. Canine teeth are very sharp, at anterior end of upper jaw distinctly larger than anterior teeth in lower jaw, visible even when mouth is closed. There are anchor-shaped teeth with a median posterior extension on vomer and teeth on palatines. There are no teeth on ectopterygoids.
    They have a single dorsal fin with 10 spines and 14 (rarely 13) soft rays, spinous portion of fin not deeply incised at its junction with soft portion. Their anal fin rounded posteriorly with 3 spines and 8 soft rays. Last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins is not elongated. Their pectoral-fin with 16 or 17, usually 17, rays is longer than distance from tip of snout to posterior edge of preopercle, 1/3rd in standard length. Caudal fin is emarginate. There are total of 19 to 21 gill rakers with 6 to 8 on first arch on upper limb and 12 to 14 on lower limb. There are 46 to 49 tubed scales in lateral line. Membranes of soft dorsal and anal fins are with scales. There are no scales on maxilla.
    The large Dog Snappers are easy to identify and not easy confused with other species. However, the smaller fish are quite similar to the Greybar Grunt (by 6 thick dark bars) upon collection, and also might be confused with the Barred Pargo (which has similar barring but a significantly less aerodynamic body profile). Also the dog snapper is very similar in shape to the red snapper, but is much smaller and of different coloration.
    Their color is olive green to olive brown with a bronze, red or coppery tinge, dark olive or bluish on the back, lighter reddish with a coppery cast on lower sides, with about a dozen lighter-colored vertical narrow stripes across the body. The young have a horizontal blue line below the eye and across the opercle, which turns into a row of spots on the adults. Adults have a white triangular bar and a light blue interrupted line under the lower edge of the eyes. The pectoral, ventral, anal fins, gill-covers and distal portions of the soft dorsal and caudal fins are red, while the rest of the dorsal and caudal fins are yellow to olive green. There is a row of small, round blue spots from the snout to the angle of the gill-cover, also a bluish or dusky stripe. The iris of the eye is red; there is no dark lateral spot on body below anterior part of soft dorsal fin.

Dog Snapper are an inshore species, preferring rocky and coral reefs and caves in shallow waters with depths of 100 feet and possibly deeper. Large adultís common offshore over coral and rocky reefs; young occur in coastal waters, especially estuaries, and sometimes rivers, and seldom enter fresh water; juveniles associated with estuaries. They are solitary species that appears to stay in a home range.
    The dog snapper feeds nocturnally on small fishes and crustaceans, gastropods, mollusks and cephalopods. It grows to a foot in length and to a pound or two in weight. Dog snappers prey at night on smaller fish and benthic invertebrates, including shrimps, crabs, gastropods, and cephalopods

They became sexual mature at lengths of 12-16 inches (30-40 cm). The dog snapper typically spawns from spring through fall in March, near Jamaica and the northeastern Caribbean, although they do spawn to a lesser degree throughout their range. Ripe females have been seen during spawning aggregation off Belize in January. This snapper is similar to others in the Lutjanidae family in that its eggs and larvae are planktonic, dispersed by the ocean currents. There is little known about the larvae and its development. The post-larval stage eventually settles out of the plankton, onto suitable habitat that offers some protection from predators. These juveniles are red/brown laterally and dorsally with yellow ventral fins. There may be an oblique eye stripe. Eventually the juveniles move to coral reefs or rocky bottom habitats where they will live as adults.

Fishing Methods. The Dog Snapper grows to well over five feet in length, reaching close to 100-pounds and it is found in the first 100 feet of the water column around rocky reefs. Marketed fresh and frozen, this snapper is an excellent food fish and is greatly prized as a sport catch. This species is a strong fighter and a tough sportfish that can be caught on live baits, jigs, spoons, feathers, plugs, or pork ring fished of trolled. Where there are plenty of rocky pinnacles, reefs, and islands, anglers can land these fish by casting diving plugs and surface plugs, the latter creating some terrific explosions. Dog Snappers feed on crustaceans and small schooling fish including croakers, grunts, and wrasses. They are normally caught out of a panga on a slow trolled live Mullet or on live sardines. Hooks on gut snells, sea-crawfish, or a small minnow, are also good baits. The smaller one-foot snappers can be caught right from the beach around rocky structure utilizing cut squid or dead sardines. The Dog Snapper is a good food-fish, great tasty table fare.
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