Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis)


The mutton snapper is a member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper. It is an excellent food fish, often marketed as "red snapper".

Other Names

Portuguese: cioba; Spanish: pargo cebalo, pargo cebal, pargo colorado, pargo criollo, pargo mulato.

Identification

The mutton snapper can be striking in appearance, varying from orangish to reddish-yellow or reddish-brown, or from silver-gray to olive green on the back and the upper sides. All fins below the lateral line have a reddish cast, and larger mutton snapper take on an overall reddish color, which causes them to be confused with red snapper.

Young fish are often olive colored and may display dark bars. There is a distinct black spot about the size of the eye on the mid-body line below the rear dorsal fin, and of all the snapper with this type of dark spot, the mutton is the only one with a V-shaped tooth patch in the roof of the mouth, rather than an anchor-shaped one.

There are also small blue lines below and near each eye, and the dorsal fin has 10 spines and 14 rays. Adults tend to develop high backs, and all fish have pointed anal fins.

The lane snapper is somewhat similar in coloring, except that it has yellow streaks. It also has squarish or even rounded anal and dorsal fins, whereas the mutton snapper has pointed anal and dorsal fins.

Size

Ordinarily 1 to 2 feet in length and 15 pounds in weight, the mutton snapper can reach weights of 25 to 30 pounds and lengths of 30 inches. The all-tackle world record is a 30-pound, 4-ounce Florida fish.

Spawning behavior

Spawning takes place from May through October, with a peak of activity in July and August. Mutton snapper form small groups that disperse during the night.

Food and feeding habits

Mutton snapper feed both day and night on shrimp, fish, snails, crabs, and plankton.

Distribution

In the western Atlantic, mutton snapper extend from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea and the northern Gulf of Mexico. They are most abundant around the Antilles, the Bahamas, and off southern Florida and have been introduced into Bermuda waters.

Habitat

Young fish occur over soft bottoms, such as seagrass beds, whereas adults are found over hard bottoms around rocky and coral reefs, as well as in bays and estuaries. They drift above the bottom at depths of 5 to 60 feet.
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