The Red Snapper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods
The Red Snapper is one of the most valuable snapper for anglers and commercial fishermen. A member of Lutjanidae family of snapper, it is one of the most highly coveted of all reef fish and is almost always the most expensive fish per pound on the market. It is a good fighter that never gives up. Red Snapper has a great, medium firm texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. It is low in fat and a good source of vitamin B6, potassium and phosphorous. Snapper is a versatile fish that works well grilled, broiled, baked, poached and roasted or sautéed, it makes a tasty addition to stews and chowders. It is a reef bottom dweller usually found between 60 and 400 feet below the surface of the water. They travel in large schools and can be found in shallow waters during the spring. Red Snappers are aggressive predators who live off other fish, shrimp and squid that can be found along the rocky bottom of the warm coastal waters. Their upper body is dark red or golden; lower body light red or golden with white edges on scales.
The red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, also known as American red snapper, Golden Snapper, Snapper, Yelloweye Rockfish, Latin American Spanish Huachinango or Pargo, is a reef fish found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States. Inhabit the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Bermuda, south to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Indonesia. Red snapper are an immensely popular game and highly prized food fish. It is especially abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, in water from ten to fifty fathoms deep, on the snapper banks, from ten to fifty miles offshore, and thence south to Brazil, occasionally straying north on the Atlantic coast to Long Island.
Red snapper have a sloped profile, medium-to-large scales, a spiny dorsal fin and a laterally compressed body. They have short, sharp, needle-like teeth. Both jaws have villiform teeth, but the lower jaws are slightly larger. The upper jaw also has several canine teeth. The lower jaw protrudes slightly beyond the upper. Their prominent upper canine teeth are like found on the mutton, dog, and mangrove snappers. There are no teeth on ectopterygoids. The depth of its body is a little more than a 1/3rd of its length, being rather deep and compressed, the back elevated and regularly arched from the eye to the tail. The head is large, its length equal to the depth of the body, with a pointed snout, large mouth, and straight profile. They have long triangular snout; anal fin sharply pointed; no dark lateral spot.
They have a single dorsal fin with 10 spines and 14, rarely 13 or 15, soft rays, spinous portion of fin not deeply incised at its connection with soft portion. Anal fin with 3 spines and 9, sometimes 8, soft rays, angulated in specimens more than about 5 cm standard length. Last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins is not extended. Their caudal fin truncate to lunate, pectoral fin has 15 to 18, usually 17, rays. Membranes of soft dorsal and anal fins have scales. There are 46 to 51, usually 47 or 48 tubed scales in lateral line. There are 7 to 10 scales above lateral line and 15 to 19 scales below lateral line. Maxilla does not have any scales. There are 21 to 24 gill rakers including 6 to 8 on first arch on upper limb and 14 to 16 on lower limb.
Their entire body and fins are pinkish red in color, with more intense pigment on the back, lightening to a rosy white underside. The vibrant red color of these fish comes from high levels of carotenoid pigments, largely astaxanthin, coming from shrimp in their natural diet. The color is paler on the throat; fins all red, the vertical fins bordered with dusky blue; there is a dark blotch under the front of the soft portion of the dorsal fin (persisting to about 25 to 30 cm standard length), except in the oldest and largest fish; the iris of the eye is scarlet. The caudal fin has dark distal border.
Juvenile fish can also have a dark spot on their side which fades with age. At a size less than 35 cm (14 in) red snapper exhibit a dark spot on the upper sides below the anterior soft dorsal rays. Juveniles sometimes display bluish stripes on their sides.
Red snapper average 24 in (60 cm) in length, with a maximum size of 39 in (100 cm) and up to 20 lbs (9 kg). Estimated maximum age is 40-50 years. Growth is approximately 10 cm (4 in) per year for the first 6 years, after which the growth rate generally declines.
The Red Snapper, a deep-water fish, commonly inhabits waters from 30 to 200 ft (10 to 60 m), but can be caught as deep as 300 ft (100 m) or more on occasion with the temperature range from 50 to 70 F (10 - 21 C). They stay relatively close to the bottom, and inhabit rocky bottom, ledges, ridges, and artificial reefs, including offshore oil rigs and shipwrecks. Juveniles inhabit shallow waters, most abundantly over sand or mud bottoms.
The red snapper is a bottom fish, feeding in company with the large groupers on small fishes, crustaceans, cephalopods, miscellaneous benthic invertebrates, and planktonic organisms. It grows to 20 or 30 lbs, but its common size is from 5 to 10 lbs. Adult red snapper live offshore on the continental shelf, over deep reefs, banks, and rock bottoms. Older, larger fish tend to prefer the cooler, deeper spots. Young red snapper live in muddy and sandy bottoms. As juveniles mature they seek out cover in the form of ledges, rock outcroppings, and wrecks. During winter they move offshore to avoid the cooler, shallow inshore waters.
Sexual maturity occurs after about 2 years of age, at lengths of 12-16 in (30-40 cm). They spawn from July to October off southwestern Florida and from June through August in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Spawning has been noted from May through September off the southeastern Florida and North Carolina and in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Some individuals may spawn multiple times during the reproductive season. Red snapper spawn away from reefs at depths of 60-120 ft (18-37 m) over flat sand bottom areas.
Eggs hatch 20-27 hours after fertilization. Larvae are very small at 0.09 in (2.2 mm), and very prone to predation and starvation. They are planktonic until they begin to settle out of the water column at about 20 days. Larvae settle on areas that offer some protection from predators, such as open shell beds. Larvae feed on zooplankton, such as copepods and amphipods. Maturing juveniles move to the reefs where they reside as adults. Juveniles and adults are carnivorous. Juveniles prey on shrimp, squid, and octopus. Adults are feed on smaller fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that they find in flat bottom areas adjacent to the reefs or other structure they live in.
The Red Snapper is one of the best dinner fish, its fine, firm flesh. Red snapper will eat almost anything, but prefer small fish and crustaceans. They can be caught on live bait as well as cut bait, and will also take artificial lures. By the time the fish is brought to the surface from the bottom it is almost exhausted, and would afford no sport to the angler. The bringing of the fish from depths where the pressure of the water is so great, to the surface, where it is comparatively so much less, causes the fish to swell up, and the air-bladder to be so filled that the fish would float.
The best time of year to catch Red Snapper is usually mid summer through early autumn. Smaller Red Snapper can be caught in the spring when they migrate into the shallow waters for a few months, before moving back out to the deeper water. Use bottom fishing tactics near wrecks, oil rigs, and over reefs, with baits of squid, medium size fish, and tinny strips of bloody. Suspended fish caught using heavy jigs tipped with strip bait just off the bottom. Red snapper seem to prefer still or slowly moving bait. Squid whole fish and cut bait can be used to entice red snapper to bite.