Dog Snapper

Armed with impressive canine teeth, dog snappers patrol the reefs and bottoms of the western Atlantic Ocean.
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Where and When?

Dog snappers are endemic to the warmer coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, and may be found from Massachusetts southwards, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as far south as Sao Paulo in Brazil. As juveniles they spend much time in estuaries, lagoons and bays but generally migrate to deeper waters as they grow. Some adults may, however, remain in or return to the shallow areas between spawning seasons. Dog snappers are usually found around hard reefs or bottoms and particularly coral reefs. They are almost always near some kind of cover and often retreat to it if threatened. Some specimens have been found in waters as deep as 100 m. (330 ft.), but the usual depth range is about 5-30 m. (16-98 ft.). Dog snappers are naturally mostly nocturnal feeders and thus fishing is best at night or in the early morning or evening. In deeper waters, however, they may be caught throughout the day. They are a species that favours warmer times and so summer fishing is usually the most productive.

About Dog Snapper

Dog snappers (Lutjanus jocu) are members of the Lutjanidae family of snappers and are a popular game fish. They are also commercially important in some areas. Dog snappers are also called “dog tooth snappers”, because their upper jaw is armed with a pair of long, sharp, strong, fearsome canine teeth. The canine teeth are so large that they can be seen even if the mouth is shut. Dog snappers have big eyes and mouths, and a deep, compressed body with particularly long pectoral fins. Adults are greenish-olive above with a coppery-reddish lower body. Dog snappers can grow to 128 cm. (50 in.) and 28.6 kg. (63 lbs), but are more common at around 60 cm. (24 in.). They feed on a wide variety of organisms including many benthic invertebrates but, as they grow, they tend to favour gulping in whole live fish. Large dog snappers are top predators that patrol the reefs and gullies in search of food. Males and females are similar and, as adults, they are generally solitary but come together in dense aggregations annually in late spring to spawn.

How to Catch?

Dog snappers may be caught by many methods and the most appropriate depends on where and when you want to fish plus your personal preference. They are enthusiastic predators and usually attack baits aggressively. Baits can be live, dead or artificial, and spinning and fly fishing can be productive and exciting. In estuaries and other shallow inshore areas, bank fishing gives excellent control over the casting and approaching good spots, while small boats are better in some lagoon areas. Offshore, medium sized or charter boats can take you accurately to where the big dog snappers lurk on reefs and the guides and charter boat operators can advise on the best methods, lures and baits. Fishing from an anchored boat towards a reef, weed-bed or other structure can work well early in the morning or evening. You can cast live or dead bait the structure, tighten the line and await sudden action. Otherwise, you can cast smallish live or dead baits, a popper or other lure or even a fly and retrieve it rapidly using fairly strong tackle. This will often excite a dog snapper to emerge from the cover, smash into your bait, lure, or fly and then turn and head back strongly for home and safety. This kind of fishing can be exciting, rewarding and memorable and result in the memory of an excellent fight from a worthy opponent.