Red Snapper

Red snappers are typical medium to large sized members of the snapper family, important both as a commercial and game species.
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Where and When?

The northern red snapper is possibly the most commonly caught game fish along the shores of south eastern USA where annual catches now probably exceed 4 000 000 fish. While the northern red snapper is mostly found from the Carolinas southwards round Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, they do not extend far into the Caribbean Sea where the southern red snapper mostly replaces it. The prime areas for all red snapper are around reefs, in a depth range of 9 to 60 metres, where the fish feed and may be hooked throughout the year. In the USA, however, each state has strict quotas and also limited open seasons for red snappers. Further south there are generally less restrictions on the capture of the southern red snapper. Local knowledge is very helpful to avoid problems with local closed seasons and bag and size limits and also to locate and hook large specimens.

About Red Snapper

The northern red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is found around the south and western USA shore while the southern species (Lutjanus purpureus) is distributed from Cuba through the Caribbean Sea southwards to Brazil. The two species are very similar in most ways but the southern one is reported to have a larger and more pointed anal fin. In colour, red snapper are generally reddish/orange on the flanks and back, often with lighter patches along the sides. Juvenile fish have dark spots on the flanks. They have a fairly long, vertically compressed body with a largish mouth that contains a fearsome array of sharp pointed teeth, although they lack the large “canine” teeth of some snappers. They eat mostly fish but, as they grow, this diversifies to include invertebrates and almost anything they can catch. All red snapper can grow to about 1 meter (3 ft. 4 in) in length and a recorded mass of 23 kilograms (501 lbs.) but most fish caught are around 60 centimeters (2 ft.) long. Although they mature at 2-5 years of age they can reportedly live for over 50 years, with reports of them reaching 100 years of age. Red snapper often form large shoals, usually of similar sized fish, and the capture of juvenile fish, as a bycatch of shrimp netting, is seen as a serious threat to recruitment in some areas.

How to Catch?

Red snappers are generally bottom feeding, reef or structure associated fish usually found in fairly deep water. Most red snapper fishing is carried out from small private and charter boats on day trips from a multitude of small harbours along the south eastern seaboard of the USA as well as through the Caribbean Sea and around north eastern South America. As an important reef predator, the species may be caught by a number of fishing techniques including natural baits, jigs or artificial baits. In shallower water areas spinning or even fly fishing can produce fish but, in most areas, the fish are too deep for these methods. Similarly, shore fishing can produce good results where it is possible to cast out far enough to get the lure or bait to where the fish are feeding. Red snapper are a very popular game fish as they are often “keen” to take bait, reasonably abundant and there is always a chance of a good fight and catching a large specimen.