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Fish Facts  »  Mangrove Snapper


The mangrove snapper has a relatively slender body, a large mouth, and a pointed snout. The anal fin is rounded and the pectoral fins short, not reaching the anal fin. Young cubera snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus) may be easily confused with mangrove snapper and careful comparison of the vomerine teeth (found on the roof of the mouth) of either species is the most reliable means of discerning the two. Adult cuberas however, are among the very largest of snapper species, obtaining lengths as great as 5 feet (1.5m) and weights of 125lbs (55.5kg) and such specimens are not likely to be confused for gray snapper! Male and female gray snapper are externally indiscernible. Although the general ground color for this species may vary, especially so in the case of juveniles, in general the body and fins of mangrove snappers are gray to green with a reddish tinge. Evident on the sides of the fish are rows of small reddish to orange spots. The median fins are darker than the paired fins, often edged with yellow or white and the pectoral fins are colorless. The back edge of the anal fin is rounded. There is no black spot on the side of body. Young mangrove snappers have a prominent dark stripe from the snout through the eye and a less conspicuous blue stripe on the cheek, below the eye. They may also at times show a lateral pattern of narrow pale bars on the body. The fins of juveniles are reddish-orange with dark edges.


Mangrove snappers reside in coastal as well as offshore waters from very shallow areas to depths of 180m (585 feet). Large aggregations of this snapper are frequently observed amongst coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, and mangrove habitats. Adults of the species tend to remain in the same area for long periods once established and tagging studies have shown little movement for periods of time as great as 4 years. However, within such a range the species exhibits daily activity patterns associated with nocturnal feeding and diurnal schooling. Young mangrove snapper live inshore in areas such as seagrass beds as well as soft and sand-bottom areas but may be found in a variety of habitats and a number of inshore habitats are important nurseries for this species. Both adults and juveniles have been found in freshwater lakes and rivers in south Florida, a clear indication that the species is tolerant of a broad range of salinity levels.


Mangrove snapper are opportunistic predators. Larvae feed on zooplankton including copepods and amphipods. Juvenile mangrove snappers feed by day among seagrass beds, mainly on crustaceans and fish and to a lesser degree polychaete worms and molluscs. Foraging nocturnally, adult gray snapper prey upon small fishes, shrimps, crabs, gastropods, and cephalopods.


This snapper is a tremendously popular game and food fish, composing a major portion of both the sport and recreational catches of Florida’s snapper fishery. Although the species is fished commercially it is sought largely as a seasonal supplement to other fisheries. These fish are caught with beach seines, gill nets, traps, angling gear, handlines, and spears. Shrimp trawlers account for a large portion of the fishing mortality of this snapper, as the soft bottom habitats preferred by juvenile gray snappers also support large populations of shrimp. This fish has been successfully reared in aquaculture and is also exhibited in commercial aquariums.


The mangrove snapper is one of the smaller snappers, rarely exceeding 18 inches (45 cm) in length, and is almost always less than 10 pounds. Maximum size is 24 inches and 10lbs


The Mangrove Snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Bermuda, southward to Brazil, including Bermuda, Bahamas, West Indies, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is especially abundant around the coastline of Florida.


Florida Museum of Natural History

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