|Florida Fish: Snapper|
Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella)The blackfin snapper is
found in the tropical West Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts to Brazil,
although it is rare north of North Carolina. It is also found near
shorelines in the Gulf of Mexico and common throughout the Caribbean.
Living over sandy and rocky bottoms near ledges, the blackfin snapper
occurs in waters 200-300 feet deep. The adults live offshore near the
continental shelf. The young typically inhabit rocky outcroppings near
reefs in shallow waters of 20-60 feet. The blackfin snapper is often
observed schooling in groups of 20-30 individuals. This snapper is
similar to others in the Lutjanidae family because it has the same deep
body and double dorsal fin. Its caudal fin is rather truncate-shaped and
it has a long pectoral fin. The anal fin is rounded. This snapper has an
average length of 12 inches with a maximum length of 16 inches. Sexual
maturation occurs when females reach approximately 7 inches and males
reach approximately 15 inches. Average weight is 3-4 pounds. The
blackfin snapper is a carnivorous predator, feeding near the bottom of
the ocean. It is an opportunistic feeder, preying on any small fish
within range. Young blackfin snapper feed on shrimp, worms, and other
small invertebrates, switching to small finfish as they mature. The
blackfin snapper is a popular game and excellent food fish. It is
sometimes marketed as red snapper.
Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus) The cubera snapper ranges from Massachusetts to Brazil in the western Atlantic Ocean. It is a tropical species and is rare north of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Cubera snappers are solitary reef dwellers. Living inshore or nearshore, they most often associate with ledges over rocky ledges and overhangs. They live at depths to 175 feet below the water surface. The young typically inhabit inshore mangrove areas and seagrass beds that offer some protection from predators. Small cubera also are known to enter estuaries, mangrove areas, and the tidal reaches of streams and freshwater canals. These fish are generally gray or dark brown with pale to dark gray sides. Common weighing around 40 pounds and reaching lengths of 3 feet, the cubera snapper may reach up to 125 pounds and 5 feet in length. This snapper is easily the largest snapper occurring in the Atlantic Ocean. An aggressive, carnivorous fish, the cubera snapper feeds primarily on fishes and crabs. The strong canines allow mature cubera to feed on large crustaceans including lobsters and crabs. Feeding grounds are typically located near the bottom in rocky reef areas or adjacent to other structures. The cubera snapper is a popular game and food fish.
Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu ) The adult dog snapper is commonly found around coral reefs and rocky bottoms at depths of 16-100 feet, while the young can be seen in estuaries and have been known to go inshore and swim into rivers. The dog snapper is one of the only lutjanids to be found in freshwaters. Dog snappers are solitary and wary fish, preferring secluded areas of the reef. Dog snappers have olive green upper sides and backs, sometimes with narrow pale bars. The lower sides and belly are light red and copper-colored. With an average length of 24 inches, the adult dog snapper may reach a maximum length of 30 inches. The maximum weight known for this snapper is 20 lbs. Sexual maturity is obtained at lengths of 12-16 inches.
Gray Snapper (Lutjanus griseus) The gray snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Bermuda, southward to Brazil, including Bermuda, Bahamas, West Indies, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is especially abundant around the coastline of Florida. Gray snappers reside in coastal as well as offshore waters from very shallow areas to depths of 585 feet. Large aggregations of this snapper are frequently observed amongst coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, and mangrove habitats. Adults of the species tend to remain in the same area for long periods once established and tagging studies have shown little movement for periods of time as great as 4 years. However, within such a range the species exhibits daily activity patterns associated with nocturnal feeding and diurnal schooling. Young gray snapper live inshore in areas such as seagrass beds as well as soft and sand-bottom areas but may be found in a variety of habitats and a number of inshore habitats are important nurseries for this species. Both adults and juveniles have been found in freshwater lakes and rivers in south Florida, a clear indication that the species is tolerant of a broad range of salinity levels. The gray snapper is one of the smaller snappers, rarely exceeding 18 inches in length, and is almost always less than10 pounds. Gray snapper are opportunistic predators. Larvae feed on zooplankton including copepods and amphipods.
Lane Snapper (Lutjanus synagris) The lane snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina to southern Brazil. It is most abundant in the Antilles, off Panama, and the northern coast of South America. It also occurs in Bermuda and the Gulf of Mexico. The lane snapper has a fairly deep body with a pointed snout. It has a double dorsal fin, with a rounded anal fin and relatively short pectoral fins. The caudal fin is emarginate to slightly forked. Lane snappers have an average length of 14 inches, with a maximum length of 20 inches. They usually weigh less than a pound. Sexual maturity is reached at lengths of 3-9 inches. The estimated maximum age of the lane snapper is 10 years. Adult lane snappers live in a variety of habitats, but are most commonly observed over reefs and vegetated sandy bottoms in shallow inshore waters. This species has also been reported in offshore waters to depths of 1300 feet. Once established, adult snappers remain in the same area for their entire lives. Lane snappers also occur in seagrass beds associated with shrimping areas. Juveniles live in protected inshore areas. Lane snapper have two color phases. The deep-water phase coloration is darker and more pronounced than those with the shallow-water resting phase coloration. Both color phases have pink to red upper sides and backs with a green tinge. The lower sides and belly are silver with a yellow tinge.
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