The Mutton Snapper, Lutjanus analis
Color varies widely with size and habitat. Juveniles in shallow water are very bright, with an overall rosy appearance and mostly red fins. Adults are greenish above and red on the lower sides and underside. All sizes show blue lines in the gill cover and along the back, with a single black spot near the dorsal fin about three-quarters of the way to the fin.Vague vertical bars may be present. Anal fin is pointed.
SIZE: Inshore average is 1-2 pounds. On reefs and in deeper water, the average is 5 pounds or more, with individuals up to 15 pounds not uncommon. Maximum is probably around 35 pounds.World and Florida records 30 pounds, 4 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent.
GAME QUALITIES: Muttons are strong fighters in deep water, and can be dazzling ones in shallow water or atop the tailing flats, getting off long runs and then resisting with strength and broad sides.
TACKLE AND BAITS: For reef fishing, light ocean tackle is ideal and the best baits are live Pinfish, live Pilchards, live or cut Ballyhoo, big live shrimp and fresh cut baitfish. Light spinning or baitcasting tackle is an excellent choice inshore, when tossing jigs and plugs in channels or over grass beds and rocks. In shallow water, Muttons smash surface plugs readily. When encountered on sight-fishing flats, the same tackle is used as for Permit or Bonefish. Live crabs make the best bait here, with live shrimp also acceptable. Permit jigs and flies will also do the job, if presented well.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Casting; Drifting.
HABITAT: Juveniles inhabit inshore grass beds, coral patch- es and channels. Adults are primarily inhabitants of the deeper reefs, although many are found in nearshore deep channels and passes of South Florida, the Keys and the Bahamas. Big Muttons even sneak up on certain “tailing flats” occasionally, to forage in the manner of Bonefish and Permit.
RANGE: The Mutton Snapper more or less takes over for the Red Snapper in South Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean. On the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Muttons are common on the reefs as far north as, roughly, Fort Pierce, but gradually give way to Red Snapper after that. In the Gulf, few Muttons are caught north of the Keys, although they turn up now and then in the bags of offshore bot- tom fishermen all along the Gulf Coast.