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The Gray Snapper, Mangrove Snapper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods

Mangrove snapper, or gray snapper, is hard-fighting member of the snapper family, a good game fish, one of the fiercest fighting fish in the ocean and an excellent food fish. It has very sweet, white, flaky meat, one of the testiest of the snapper family. Meat is easily filleted and marketed fresh or frozen. They can live to 25 years and reach 35 inches in length and a weight of 25 lbs, but rarely exceed 18 in (45 cm) in length, and is almost always less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg). Their color is dark brown or gray with reddish or orange spots in rows along the sides. During cold, winter water these fish going out to deep water or south to warmer water. The Gray Snapper is primarily caught by bottom fishing methods. Also this species can be caught offshore in mangrove- and sea-grass estuaries, using shrimp, clams and bloodworms. Gray Snapper is an excellent lean protein because it is low in calories and fat, it is great source of potassium, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids.
The Gray Snapper Fishing Gray Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Lutjanus griseus, also known as Black Snapper, Mango Snapper, Gray Silk, Pargo Prieto, Pargo, Mangrove Pargue, Black Pargue, Pargo Dienton, Pargo de Piedra, Pargo Moreno, Aquadera. Gray snapper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Bermuda, south to Brazil, including Bermuda, the Bahamas, the West Indies, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The Gray Snapper is characterized by his darker copper to bronze hue, over a darker to like gradient - from top to bottom. They have elongate and not strongly compressed body. Their head profile is nearly straight or slightly convex from snout to nape. The back edge of the anal fin is rounded, its 2nd spine equal or slightly longer than 3rd. The pectoral fins are short, not reaching the anal fin; fin length nearly equal to distance from snout to upper preoperclar margin. Their tail is large and unforked. The brow slopes into a large odd shaped mouth with small teeth, leading to a flatter underside and pointed snout. There is a stripe that runs the length of his flank, just under the dorsal fin. This line extends from snout to tail and is ever more present when the fish is feeding or excited. Both jaws have a narrow band of villiform teeth. The upper jaw has 4 strong canine teeth, two of which are enlarged and used to tear into their food. Vomer and palatines have villiform teeth in an arrow-shaped patch with a medial posterior extension; there are no teeth on ectopterygoids. Maxilla does not have scales.

Their single dorsal fin has 10 spiny rays and 14 soft rays. Anal fin rounded posteriorly and has 3 spiny rays and usually 8, rarely 7 soft rays. Last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins not elongated. Pectoral fin with 15 to 17 rays has length about equal to distance from tip of snout to posterior edge of preopercle, approximately 4 times in standard length. There are 43 to 47 of pored scales along lateral line. Membranes of soft dorsal and anal fins have scales. There are 6 - 10 gill rakers on first gilt arch on upper limb, and 18 - 22 on lower limb. Head length is 1/3 of standard length; body depth is 1/3 of standard length. Snout length is 1/3 of head length. Mouth large, maxilla is reaching front of pupil, approximately 1/3 of head length. Dorsal spines are strong; 4th spine longest, approximately 1/3 of head length. Soft dorsal rounded, the 9th and 10th rays longest. The Fish Diagram

    The color of upper body and fins of Snapper is highly variable, especially in juveniles. Their back and upper sides are grey to grey-green with strong reddish to brick-reddish overtones, sometimes dark olive with a reddish tinge. The sides display rows of small reddish to orange spots. The belly is lighter in color. Median fins darker, often edged with white or yellow. Faint vertical bars may also be visible on the sides. Pectorals are nearly colorless. There is no black spot on the side of the body. Young fish have a prominent black bar from tip of snout through the eye towards base of spinous dorsal fin, often with a blue stripe on the cheek below the eye, and often with pattern of narrow pale bars on side. At times a lateral pattern of narrow pale bars on the body is shown. Males and females are externally indiscernible. The fins of juveniles are reddish-orange with dark edges. Juveniles and adults commonly bear orange or dark brown. Dots on centers of scales on sides are forming rows of spots. It most closely looks like the Cubera Snapper.
    Gray snappers grow rapidly the first 6 to 7 years of their life, reaching 11 inches by age 2 and 21 inches by age 8. They can live to 25 years and reach 30 inches in length. Gray snapper rarely exceed 18 in (45 cm) in length, and is almost always less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg).

They found from very calm shallow coastal waters up to 600 ft (180 m) deep offshore, around coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, mangrove sloughs, tidal creeks, lower reaches of rivers, and on seldom fresh waters (young fish). Adults forms large schools and show little movement once they have settled in a location, or during feeding or schooling. Young gray snapper live in soft and sandy bottom inshore areas. When they are younger they migrate to the open water, mostly encountered at reefs and wrecks in the deeper waters off the coast as they mature. Juveniles 12 inches long and less are common in saline coastal lakes and bays. Larger fish are in offshore waters up to 200 feet deep, with the largest fish being farthest offshore. Small fish inshore are often found on open bottoms.
    Gray snapper are opportunistic predators. Larvae feed on zooplankton, such as copepods and amphipods. Juveniles feed by day among sea-grass beds, planktonic organisms, mainly on crustaceans and fish, and sometimes on worms and mollusks. Adults are nocturnal foragers that prey on small fish, shrimp, crabs, gastropods, miscellaneous benthic invertebrates and cephalopods. Juveniles are inshore in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds; adults generally near-shore or offshore on coral or rocky reefs. They feed most heavily in late afternoon or night, leaving their reef habitats to forage on nearby open bottoms.

Sexual maturity occurs at age 2 or 3, at lengths of 7-13 in (18-33 cm). Spawning occurs from April to November with a peak during the summer months at the dusk during the full moons of June, July, and August, and in shallow waters. Individuals may spawn multiple times throughout the reproductive season. Gray snapper are broadcast spawners of demersal eggs.
    After fertilization larvae hatch approximately in 20 hours. The yolk sac is absorbed within the first 45 hours, at which time the larvae begin active feeding of plankton. Larvae appear to be planktonic at lengths less than 0.4 in (10 mm). Post-larval gray snapper typically settle into estuarine habitats such as sea-grass beds and mangroves. Pre-juvenile and juveniles feed by day until reaching a size of approximately 3.15 in (80 mm) when they move into shallow rocky areas and coastal reefs where they are commonly found as adults. Young gray snappers tend to each shrimp and other crustaceans, while adults prefer fishes, crabs, or shrimps, and may feed on grass flats in the late afternoon or at night.

Fishing Methods. Gray snapper are a very popular game and food fish. Live shrimp and baitfish, as well as dead cut baitfish, crab and shrimp make for the best natural bait, while top water plugs, poppers, jigs and streamers make for the best artificial bait. Gray snappers are known for their cunning in avoiding a baited hook or spear fisherman. Usually after a few are hooked or speared, the others on a site will give hooks or divers wide berth. Once caught, their jaws will lock down hard on a hook. As the hook is being removed they snap their jaws open and shut with great force, often catching a careless angler by surprise.
    Mangroves live almost anywhere from brackish out to 200 feet of water. They school from small numbers to thousands. When they spawn in late summer, early fall they can be found on deep patches and reef line in large numbers. They are usually hungry but can be caught best at night. Nighttime is best time for fishing the bigger snappers. Mangrove respond very well to chum and will eat shrimp, cut mullet, ballyhoo, and squid.
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