Snapper Identifier

How to distinguish the many different snappers from one another.
The snapper family Lutjanidae consists of 250 different species. Each one varies when it comes to color, size and preferred habitat. But telling them apart is no easy task. In this photo gallery from King Sailfish Mounts, you can study up on the most popular snapper species.
Found in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina to northern Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico the blackfin snapper is most common in the Caribbean. The body is mainly scarlet red with a silver belly and yellowish or orange fins. Adults inhabit deeper waters, drop-offs and ledges. Has 10 dorsal spines.
There are Atlantic and Pacific cubera snapper. Both grow to 80-plus pounds but the Atlantic species is known to top 100 pounds. Eyes are dark red and the body can be grey or greenish. Pacific cubera sometimes have a blue streak under the eye.
The dog snapper can be identified by its elongated dorsal fin that runs almost all the way to the tail. The body of the fish is a bronze brown with narrow pale bars. Lower sides are light red to copper. Horizontal blue line can exist under the eye. Found throughout the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil.
This small snapper prefers coral reefs and sandy bottom with vegetation. Commonly less than 8 pounds. Silvery pink to reddish in color with the outer margin of the tail fin much darker and blackish. A diffused black spot about as large as the eyeball is found above the lateral line towards the rear of the fish.
Also called the grey snapper, this is a popular species with inshore anglers. The mangrove is the most abundant of all the snappers and can be found in mangroves, on offshore wrecks and seagrass beds. Color ranges from dark red to copper. Most do not exceed 16 inches.
Inshore, reef-dwelling snapper found in the eastern Pacific from Mexico to Ecuador. Recognized by alternating dark and light stripes on the sides. The body is usually dark gray/green to reddish on the back and sides with a silvery belly.
One of the most colorful of the snappers with orange to reddish-yellow sides and blue streaks on the head, back and flanks. An oval-shaped black spot exists on each side of the fish. The dorsal fin ends in a point and has 10 spines and 14 rays. They attain weights of 25 to 30 pounds.
Found in deeper water up to 1,200 feet, the queen snapper has large eyes and a small head. The tail fin is deeply forked. The color of the body ranges from deep pink to red with a pinkish belly. Particularly abundant near oceanic islands such as the Bahamas and Virgin Islands. Typically weigh less than 10 pounds.
The northern red snapper is found throughout the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, often on structure such as oil rigs, reefs and wrecks. Juveniles prefer muddy bottom. The snout is longer and the eyes are a distinctive red. Juveniles have a dark spot on the upper sides, but shed the spot as they get older. This is a highly contested species in the United States with strictly regulated seasons and bag limits.
The schoolmaster exists throughout the western Atlantic from Bermuda to northern Brazil. Commonly found in the 12-inch range, this snapper has narrow pale vertical bars along its side with may be faint in larger fish. A solid or broken blue line runs under the eye.
Found in waters up to 1,200 feet deep over rock, gravel and sand bottoms near the edge of the continental shelf. Back and upper sides red, shading to silvery with horizontal yellow lines below the lateral line. Dorsal and tail fin are yellowish while the anal and pelvic fins are more white.
Particularly popular in the Bahamas and south Florida, the yellowtail range as far north as Massachusetts. Very colorful with a bluish gray body with yellow spots. It has a prominent yellow stripe running from the snout to its deeply forked bright yellow tail. Mostly found around reefs up to 300 feet.

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