The Yellowtail Snapper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods
The Yellowtail Snapper is a member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper, a colorful tropical reef fish, and an excellent sportfish with superb meat that is marketed fresh and frozen. This Snapper has a streamlined body that is olive or bluish gray above and silver to white below. It usually grows 1 to 2 feet long and commonly weight up to 3 pounds, rarely exceeds 5 lbs. Inhabiting tropical and subtropical coastal waters with depths of 10 to 300 feet, Yellowtail Snapper occur around coral reefs. One of the most popular and best eating of the snapper species, the yellowtail snapper, ranges as far north as the Treasure Coast but are in greatest abundance in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys. This fish is so versatile that it can be cooked in any number of ways and come out superbly delicious. Best fishing time is during days around the full moon, during summer months.
Yellowtail Snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus, also known as chrysurus, or gold-tail, swift-swimming golden fish, Rabirrubia, vivaneau quaue jaune, is marine fish distributed from North Carolina to southeastern Brazil, but most abundant in the Bahamas, off south Florida and in the Caribbean. Its habitat is from southern Florida to South America. In the Western Atlantic, they range from Massachusetts south to Brazil including Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, and the Caribbean. It is most common from South Florida through the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Yellow-tail are an elongate, slender, snapper that may grow to 76 cm or more in length and reach 9 lbs, while common is 3 lbs. They have well proportioned, compressed, and elliptical, being regularly curved from head to tail body. Their head is as long as the depth of the body, with a pointed snout; the mouth is rather small, with the lower jaw projecting.
The dorsal fin is single and continuous, with 10, rarely 9 or 11 strong spiny rays, the fifth of which is the longest (1/3 of head length), and 12 or 13, rarely 14, soft rays. Dorsal fins spinous portion not deeply emarginated at its junction with soft portion. When look at profile, the dorsal area is only slightly elevated, with a gently curve between the nape and the dorsal fin. The anal fin has 3 spiny rays and 9, rarely 8, soft rays, with the 3rd spine longer than the 2nd. Last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins not elongated. The caudal fin is long and deeply forked, with the upper lobe longer then the lower, lobes of fin well produced in larger individuals. The pectoral fins with 15 or 16, rarely 17, rays are reaching to the anus.
Scales are small and ctenoid, with 46 to 49 pored scales along lateral line. There are 9 to 11 gill rakers on first arch (on upper limb) and 21 to 23 on lower limb, total 30 to 34. Membranes of soft dorsal and anal fins have scales. There are no scales on maxilla.
To compare with other snappers the mouth is small and is set at an angle, with the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper. The maxillary extends beyond the front of the eye orbit, 1/3 of head length. The upper jaw and the vomer each have a narrow band of villiform teeth, with 5-6 small lateral canine teeth. The lower jaw has larger villiform teeth. The preopercule is weakly serrated, and teeth at angle also shallowly emarginated.
Body color is distinctive. Their back and upper sides are olive green to bluish with yellow irregular spots. The lower sides and belly of species are with alternating narrow, longitudinal strong pink and yellow stripes. The prominent mid-lateral broad, deep yellow stripe begins at mouth snout, passing under eye, and runs to tail, broadening as it passes the dorsal fins. The dorsal fin is yellow distally, but pale at its base and anteriorly. The caudal fin is entirely yellow and deeply forked. There is no dark lateral spot. Yellow spots pepper the upper body above the mid-lateral stripe. All other fins are mainly pale yellow or clear in color. The iris of the eye is scarlet; the very long caudal fin is entirely deep yellow, and the other fins are bordered with yellow.
Yellowtail snapper inhabits coastal waters, in depths of 20 - 70 m (66 - 230 ft), but could be finding at depths from 1-180 m (up to 590 ft), mostly in the vicinity of coral reefs. Juveniles usually utilize vegetated inshore waters in estuaries and bays and are common in sea-grass beds. Adults generally form schools, but are less associated with hard-bottoms than other snapper species, inhabiting patch reefs and along the outer edges of deeper coral and rock reefs. Species frequently observed well above the bottom, often in aggregations. Yellowtail snappers are semi-pelagic wanderers over reef habitats. Adults tend to remain in an area once they have become established.
The upper lethal temperature for Yellowtail is 33.5º - 34.0ºC with acclimation temperature not appearing to have any effect on upper lethal limits. The small size of the fish adds only to its succulent taste. Typical catches of yellowtail range from 10-12 lb size. This fish is so versatile that it can be cooked in any number of ways with any number of sauces & still come out superbly delicious.
Adults feed on planktonic and benthic animals, including fishes, crustaceans, worms, gastropods, and cephalopods; juveniles consume zooplankton.
They found mainly in tropical waters; spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates. The yellow-tail associates with the grunts and porgies about the coralline rocks in the channels, feeding on small fishes and crustaceans.
Age at maturity is in question for many snapper species, with most authors relating maturity to length. Yellowtail snapper males become mature at approximately 26 cm (10 inches) fork length, while females mature at 26 – 31cm (9 – 12 in) by age 3. As with most snappers, the yellowtail spawns offshore in groups. The spawning season may be protracted, with seasonal peaks in activity. They can spawn during the entire year with peak activity from January to April and from August to October in offshore waters off Jamaica. They spawn between March and August off Cuba, from April to September in the South Florida.
It is a very good game-fish and one of the most popular and best eating of the snapper species, eagerly taking sea-crawfish, crab, conch, or small fish bait. Yellowtail snapper fishing is best during the summer months. Usually located at reef structure in 50- to 120-feet of water, these are schooling fish that can be drawn close to the boat. Cut pieces of squid, small pilchards and even live shrimp are productive baits for yellowtail snapper.
Yellowtail is the most sought after, maybe the most prolific and perhaps the most finicky of the snapper family. They can be caught on shallow patches, reef line and terrain or wrecks out to 150 feet.