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

It is a handsome fish, varying from orangish to reddish-yellow with small blue streaks on the head, back and flanks, and orangish fins. Of all the species of Lutjanidae having a dark spot on the flanks below the dorsal fin, the mutton snapper is the only one in which the tooth patch in the roof of the mouth has no median extension and resembles a crescent rather than an anchor shape. The mutton snapper has an average length of 20 inches (50 cm), with a maximum length of 32 inches (80 cm). They can weigh up to 25-30 lb (11-14 kg). Mutton snappers are strong fighters and can be taken on natural and artificial lures and flies. This may very well be the best eating snapper of all. They have a fantastic texture to the meat with high fat content that gives the incredible taste.
The Mutton Snapper Fishing Mutton Snapper, Lutjanus analis, also known as Mutton fish, king snapper, pargo cebadai, pargo criollo, vivaneau sorbe, virgin snapper, and snapper is a marine fish inhabit the tropical and subtropical coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, and in the summer they inhabit waters of the temperate zones as far north as Massachusetts. They occur from New England to southeastern Brazil, including the West Indies, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

The mutton snapper has deep and compressed body with an almost lunate-shaped tail; dorsum is elevated with a steep straight profile to tip of snout. Head length is approximately 1/3rd of a length; body depth is a little more than 1/3rd of length. Snout length is 1/3rd of head length; eye small, 1/5th of head length. Mouth is moderate; maxillary barely reaching front of eye, 1/3rd of head length. The mutton snapper can be striking in appearance, varying from orangish to reddish yellow or reddish brown, or from silver gray to olive green on the back and upper sides. All the fins below the lateral line have a reddish cast, and the larger mutton snapper takes on an overall reddish color, which causes it to be confused with the red snapper. Young fish are often olive colored and may display dark bars. There is a distinct oval shaped black spot about the size of the eye on the mid-body line below the rear dorsal fin, and of all the snapper with this type of dark spot, the mutton snapper is the only one with a V-shaped tooth patch in the roof of the mouth rather than an anchor-shaped one. Vomer and palatines are with teeth, those on vomer in chevron-shaped patch without a median posterior extension; no teeth on ectopterygoids. The relatively small teeth of the mutton snapper are similar in both jaws. On the upper jaw there is a v-shaped vomerine tooth patch which has small sharp teeth used to hold prey.

There are also small blue lines below and near the eye, and the single moderately bi-lobed dorsal fin has 10, rarely 11, spines and 14, occasionally 13, soft rays. Spinous portion of dorsal fin not deeply incised at its junction with soft portion. Dorsal spines weak and slender, dorsal out linenearly straight (pointed rather than rounded); 4th spine is longest, 1/3rd of head length. Margin of soft dorsal is angulated. Adults tend to develop a high back, and all fish have pointed anal fins. A sharply pointed anal fin with 3 spines and 8, rarely 7, soft rays angulated posteriorly, similar to soft dorsal margin; 2nd and 3rd spines equally strong. Last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins not elongated. Caudal fin is deeply emarginated. Pectoral fin with 15 to 17, usually 16, rays is long, reaching just past anal origin, 1/3rd of length. There are 18 to 21 gill rakers on first arch, 6 to 8 on upper limb and 12 or 13 on lower limb. The Fish Diagram

    The lane snapper is similar in coloring except that it has yellow streaks or horizontal stripes on the body, and the mutton snapper has small blue streaks on a yellowish background, although these usually disappear with age. Also, the anal fin and rear edge of the dorsal fin of the lane snapper are not sharply pointed but appear to be squarish or even rounded, whereas the mutton snapper has pointed anal and dorsal fins. Maxilla is without scales. Membranes of soft dorsal and anal fins are both with scales. There are 47 to 51, usually 48 or 49 tubed scales in lateral line.
    Mutton snappers are very colorful. There are two color phases, usually barred when resting activities, becoming almost uniformly colored when fish is in swimming activity. Their back and upper sides are olive green, lower sides and belly whitish with red tinge; iris of eye red; dark spot present below anterior part of soft dorsal fin (this spot large in young, becoming relatively smaller with growth); bright blue lines and spots before, below, and behind eye, following contour of operculum; fins mostly red, particularly anal, lower part of caudal, and pelvic fins; posterior margin of caudal fin finely edged with black. Snout with irregular diagonal blue line continuing in back of eye; another irregular blue line runs from middle of maxillary to eye.

They usually occur in continental shelf areas as well as clear waters around islands. Large adults are found in or near offshore reef and rock rubble habitats, while the juveniles live in inshore areas. The juveniles are abundant in shallow waters such as tidal mangrove creeks , canals, and shallow protected bays , utilizing turtle grass as bottom cover. Solitary adults can be found among rocks and reefs, while juveniles occur over sandy or sea grass bottoms. Once an adult mutton snapper becomes established in an area, they tend to remain there. Small aggregations of mutton snapper may form during the day, disbanding at night. These fish may be found at depths ranging from 80 - 310 feet (25-95 m).
    The feeding habits of the mutton snapper change during their life history . Larval snappers feed on plankton near the surface of the water. As they settle out into the shallow grass beds , they begin to feed on larger plankton and small invertebrates . The diet then switches to shrimp, snails, crabs, and small fish such including mullet and small grunts .
    The primary feed behavior of this species is "picking" at food items during the entire day. Midwater strikes occurred during the morning and evening hours. Body coloration is dependent upon feeding mode , with dark barred color patterns associated with feeding along the bottom substrate while there was no change in coloration during midwater feeding.

Mutton snappers are sexually mature at about 16 inches (40 cm) in length. They spawn throughout its range, though primarily in the northeastern Caribbean. They form large, transient aggregations while spawning which disband during the night. Spawning occurs during the month of February in the Caribbean region while in other areas spawning occurs during summer with a peak of activitiy in July and August. Mutton snapper exhibit high site-fidelity, spawning at the same site and the same lunar calendar days, year after year. All snappers are oviparous; they release pelagic eggs that move freely with the water currents. The number of eggs is dependent upon the size of the female. After spawning, the adult fish move offshore to deeper waters.
    At lengths of less than 10 mm, the larvae tend to be planktonic. They eventually settle on suitable habitat that offers some protection from predators. Juveniles have been described as having green/brown lateral bands and transparent fins at lengths of 15mm. At 22mm in length, juveniles have thin yellow lateral stripes and a dorsolateral spot.

Fishing Methods. Methods of fishing include surf casting, drift fishing, jigging or anchoring to chum. Mutton snappers are strong fighters and can be taken on natural and artificial lures and flies. This may very well be the best eating snapper of all. They have a fantastic texture to the meat with high fat content that gives the incredible taste. They bite best in the morning between March and May. Muttons can be caught from the edge of the flats out to almost 300 feet of water. They will school on patches, reef, natural, and manmade structure. They arenít usually found in large numbers, but this is a hard fighting fish pretty big size each and you will get a real pleasure to fish. They will eat both live and dead bait, including ballyhoo, cigar minnows, pilchards, crabs, and jigs. Keep you leaders long, hooks small or hidden and your tackle appropriate for the job at hand.
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