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Snapper At A Glance

Snapper At A Glance
Snapper At A Glance

Snapper At A Glance

Average Size: Just under a pound inshore, 2 to 5 pounds offshore.



State and World Record: 17 pounds, caught off Port Canaveral.



Range: Coastal waters nearly statewide. Juveniles inhabit bays and rivers; adults more common on offshore reefs, ledges and wrecks.



Angling Methods: Bottom fishing with live or dead bait. Some also taken on lures and flies.



Illustration by Brian Sylvester



 

First, is it a “gray,” a “mangrove” or as Florida crackers have it, a “mango?” Whatever you call it, Lutjanus griseus is definitely a snapper, because its mouth is truly a snapping finger-trap. There are large canine teeth in the upper jaw, and it has the inclination to use them. Like bluefish, hooked mangroves will lie in wait and watch as an angler’s hand moves within range, then toss their head sideways and snap shut like an attacking alligator. It’s hard to make them let go once they make contact, too.

Gray snapper range from Brazil to Massachusetts, but are most common around both coasts of Florida. They can be found in water only a few feet deep as juveniles, on out to 150 feet as adults. They’re thought to spawn offshore, and that’s where all the largest ones are caught.

Smaller ones are common throughout inshore areas around cover of all types—including under overhanging mangroves, which earns them their most common name, the mangrove snapper. They also like bridges, docks, piers and rip-rap shores as well as inshore rockpiles and sometimes oyster reefs. In winter, the young ones move into rocky holes in coastal rivers. The adults, usually found in water deeper than 40 feet, prefer ledges and holes much like red grouper.

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According to scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service, gray snapper grow about four inches per year their first two years, three inches per year at age 3-4, and about two inches per year at age 5-6. Most are capable of spawning late in their second year at lengths of about 7.5 inches. Spawning is in late summer, well offshore. Surviving young drift inshore with the tides and settle into grassflat and mangrove habitat.

Adult gray snapper look almost exactly like juvenile cubera snappers, except that the cubera has lower canines as large as the uppers, and grows much, much larger. The IGFA all-tackle record for mangroves is 17 pounds even, while cuberas go over 120; in general, anything over 10 pounds is likely to be a cubera. The color is a gray-green or sometimes bronzish overall, with rusty red edging on the scales. There’s a brownish bar over the eyes in young fish. Like all snappers, the mangrove has a tooth patch on the roof of the mouth in addition to the canines; any fish that heads down the gullet is not going to get away.

Mangroves are among the most tasty and delicate of all saltwater fish on the table, with firm, white flesh that stays moist and delightful in all sorts of recipes.





FS




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