Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyrus chrysurus)

The yellowtail snapper is a member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper, a colorful tropical reef fish, and an excellent sportfish with superb meat.

Other Names

Creole: colas; French: sarde queue jaune; Portuguese: cioba, mulata; Spanish: rabirrubia.


The yellowtail snapper has a streamlined body that is olive or bluish-gray above and silver to white below. It has fine yellowish stripes on the belly. Most striking is the prominent mid-body yellow stripe, which runs from the tip of the snout through each eye to the tail, widening as it extends past the dorsal fins. The tail is bright yellow and deeply forked, and the dorsal fins are mostly yel-
lowish. There is no dark lateral spot, and the eyes are red.


The yellowtail snapper usually grows 1 to 2 feet long and commonly weighs up to 3 pounds, although it rarely exceeds 5 pounds. It can reach 30 inches and 7 pounds, and a Florida fish that weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces is the all-tackle world record. The yellowtail snapper can live for 14 years.

Life history/Behavior

Some yellowtail snapper are sexually mature at age 2; all are mature at age 4. Spawning occurs from April through August, and activity peaks in June and July. Yellowtail snapper move into deeper water, where each female will produce from 11,000 to more than 1.5 million pelagic eggs.

Food and feeding habits

Yellowtail snapper feed mainly at night on benthic and pelagic animals, including fish, crustaceans, and worms. Young fish feed primarily on plankton.


In the tropical western Atlantic, yellowtail snapper range from Massachusetts and Bermuda to southeastern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico. They are abundant in the Bahamas, in southern Florida, and throughout the Caribbean but are rare north of the Carolinas.


Inhabiting tropical coastal waters with depths of 10 to 300 feet, yellowtail snapper occur around coral reefs, either alone or in loose schools, and are usually seen well above the bottom. Young fish typically dwell inshore over grassbeds.