A member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper, the red snapper is a valued sport and commercial catch; it has been severely overfished in American waters and is now closely protected.
Other NamesAmerican red snapper, northern red snapper, mutton snapper; Portuguese: vermelho; Spanish: guachinango del Golfo, pargo colorado, pargo de Golfo.
IdentificationThe red snapper is pinkish, scarlet, or brick red on its head and upper body and silvery whitish below. It has a long triangular snout, a sharply pointed anal fin, and a distinctively red iris. A young fish of under 10 inches in length has a dusky spot below the soft dorsal fin at and above the midline, and the tail sometimes has a dark edge.
Although the adult resembles the Caribbean red snapper, there are differences in ray and scale counts; the Caribbean snapper has 8 soft rays in the anal fin, 50 to 51 scales in a row along the flank, and 10 to 11 scales between the beginning of the dorsal fin and the lateral line. The red snapper has 9 soft rays, 47 to 49 flank scales, and 8 to 9 scales between the dorsal fin and the lateral line.
Size/AgeCommonly growing to between 1 and 2 feet in length, the red snapper can reach 3 feet and can weigh more than 35 pounds. The all-tackle world record is a 50-pound, 4-ounce Louisiana fish. Adults can live for more than 20 years.
Life history/BehaviorRed snapper spawn from June through October and sometimes as early as April. They
often intermingle with grunts and other snapper in schools. It takes 3 to 4 years for these fish to reach their spawning size of 15 to 16 inches.
Food and feeding habitsRed snapper are opportunistic bottom feeders that prey on fish, shrimp, crabs, and worms.
DistributionRed snapper occur in the Gulf of Mexico and along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States as far north as Massachusetts but rarely north of the Carolinas. They are occasionally found in Florida but are absent from the Bahamas and the