Types of Snapper in Florida: A Quick Guide
Jul 4, 2019 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you had to name one fish that summed up fishing in Florida, it would be Snapper. They’re the poster children of the Sunshine State’s charter scene. This article is all about the various types of Snapper in Florida, from colorful schools on shallow reefs to big bruisers hunting offshore. We’ll cover the biggest, tastiest, and most colorful fish in the family.

Cubera Snapper

A man holding a large Cubera Snapper on a boat, with sea and sky behind him

World record: 124 lb, 12 oz – Garden Bank, LA

What a place to kick off the list! Cubera Snapper are every bit as mean as they look. Long, jagged teeth. Thick, heavy build. They mean business, and they don’t mind showing it. Cubera are solitary hunters, lone wolves, who stalk their prey around rocks, reefs, and man-made structure 60–180 feet down.

The average catch in Florida weighs around 20–40 pounds – more than enough to build up a sweat. That’s still nothing compared to how big these brutes can grow, though. Fish over 5 feet long and well over 100 pounds are caught every year. They definitely call for heavy tackle.

Lane Snapper

A happy female angler in a straw hat holding a Lane Snapper

World record: 8 lb, 3 oz – Horseshoe Rigs, MS

Lane Snapper are perfect for family fishing trips. They’re colorful, tasty, and generally not too hard to catch. Lanes are known for their headstrong attitude, taking baits other Snappers would run a mile from. On top of that, they live in shallow water (as little as 20 feet) so you don’t need to brave the high seas to find them.

The easiest way to recognize Lane Snapper is by their yellow stripes and single black spot. Hence the nickname “Spot Snapper.” At the dinner table, you’ll know them by their soft, white meat and delicate flavor. The only downside to them is that they’re not the biggest of the bunch. Most Lane Snapper are around a foot long, and they rarely weigh more than a pound.

Mangrove Snapper

An angler on a charter boat holding a Mangrove Snapper

World record: 18 lb, 10 oz – Cocodrie, LA

People sometimes confuse these guys with baby Cubera Snapper. They have a similar ruddy gray coloring and toothy smile. Mangrove Snapper don’t grow to anywhere near the same size, though. Most fish are in the 5 lb range. Occasionally, a trophy fish doubles that and maxes out at just over 2 feet.

As you can guess from the name, Mangrove Snapper live in shallow mangroves and seagrass beds. Young fish even make their way into brackish and fresh waters. They’re never the focus of a fishing trip, but they’re a welcome addition in coolers all over Florida’s inshore fisheries.

Mutton Snapper

Two anglers holding a large Mutton Snapper on a boat

World record: 30 lb, 4 oz – Dry Tortugas, FL

It takes a lot to earn the nickname “King Snapper,” but Mutton are certainly worthy of the title. They come in a range of beautiful colors, from pinkish red to green and yellow. They vary as much in size as they do in color. You might reel in a 5 lb fish one moment and a 20 lb fish the next.

Whatever size they are, and whatever they look like, Mutton Snapper are delicious. Their soft, white meat even gets compared to Red Snapper from time to time. To make things more tricky, the two often look pretty similar. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the blue line that Mutton Snapper have along their gill cover.

Queen Snapper

A smiling woman holding a Caribbean Queen Snapper

World record: 28 lb, 0 oz – Long Key, FL

Next on our list of “red Snappers that aren’t Red Snapper,” these sleek, long-bodied fish look very different to most of the family. They have an extended, trailing tail and long fins for their size. Add that all together, and a 20” fish can weigh just a couple of pounds. Don’t worry, whatever they lack in bulk they make up for in taste.

Queen Snapper’s outlandish looks probably have something to do with where they live. These guys don’t show up much above 300 feet, and they’ve been caught a quarter of a mile down in the past. This makes them one of the deepest-living types of Snapper in Florida.

Red Snapper

A shirtless angler in a cap and sunglasses holding a big red Snapper near an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

World record: 50 lb, 4 oz – Gulf of Mexico (LA)

Enter everybody’s favorite fish. Each year, anglers around the Gulf are on the edge of their seats as Red Snapper season approaches. Charter captains run triple shifts to handle the amount of people who want to catch them during their short harvest. Red Snapper are simply iconic.

What’s all the hype about? Quite simply, Red Snapper are one of the tastiest fish on the planet. They’re easily the tastiest Snapper species. To make things even better, you get plenty of quantity as well as quality. You can catch fish weighing as much as 30 pounds if you head to the best fishing grounds offshore. Man, we love these fish!

Vermilion Snapper

A small blonde child holding a Vermilion Snapper on a charter boat

World record: 7 lb, 3 oz – Mobile, AL

This is the last red fish called “Snapper” that we’re going to cover – promise. Vermilion Snapper don’t get the same fame as their big brother, but they’re still pretty darn tasty. Often called “Beeliners,” they feed in open water over rocky reefs and structure, darting after small bait fish and squid.

If you struggle to tell the difference between Vermilion and Red Snapper, the biggest giveaway is their mouths. Vermilion Snapper have a tiny mouth and no canine teeth. Don’t fancy getting that close to the business end of your catch? You can also recognize them by their square anal (bottom) fin and their overall size. They rarely top 2 pounds.

Yellowtail Snapper

A group of Yellowtail Snapper on a filleting board at a dock in Florida

World record: 11 lb, 0 oz – Challenger Bank, Bermuda

Last but not least, Yellowtail Snapper are a classic South Florida catch. These colorful treats live in large schools around shallow tropical reefs, most famously in the Keys. They have keen eyesight, so you’ll need a light line and good presentation to get them to bite. Once you do, you’ll be in for one of the best fights pound-for-pound of any Snapper species.

Yellowtail Snapper are pretty easy to recognize: They have a yellow line running down their body and, you guessed it, a yellow tail. The average catch is around 24 inches long and around 3 pounds. They’re not as big as many of Florida’s Snapper species, but they like to hang out in schools, so you can always fish your fill.

And More!

These are the top types of Snapper in Florida. Of course, this is the Sunshine State, sportfishing capital of the world, so there are always plenty more. We’ve covered the species you’re most likely to come across. Hopefully, you’ve got a better idea of what you can land on your next vacation. If nothing else, we’ve got you in the mood for some freshly-caught seafood!

Which is your favorite Snapper Species to catch? Which ones have you eaten? Do you agree that Red Snapper is the tastiest? Let us know in the comments below. We’re always happy to talk fish!

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