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Snapper (Mutton) (Lutjanus analis)
Also known as King Snapper, the Mutton Snapper is a beautiful fish, widely appreciated for its game purposes and aquarium aptness. Specimens come in a wide array of colors (from orange, yellow or green with greyish streaks over the body and blue streaks across the head to a general red, closely resembling Red Snapper) and sizes (from ones you'd want in your fish tank to those that can yield dinner for a week).
These fish spawn offshore, but spend most of their long lives (up to 40 years) over vegetated and sandy bottoms (juveniles), in various estuaries and bays and along mangrove coasts, but also around coral reefs and rocky bottoms. Due to their presence in shallow and deep waters alike, these Snappers allows for many different fishing technique experiments.
Muttons are very widespread and overfished. Especially in Cuban and Jamaican waters, it's stated that large quantities of juvenile fish are being caught, which exerts significant stress on the overall population and spawning potential. A factor burdening the conservation efforts is also that, reaching reproductive maturity when relatively large (16-18''), it's difficult establishing a good minimum catch size that will allow specimens to spawn at least once.
Who wouldn't want to look at this guy swimming around in an aquarium?
Mutton Snapper catches average between 5 and 15lbs, with 20lbs+ hook ups not that uncommon. The average adult fish will be about 19'', but they can grow up to 37''.
When & Where
This type of Snapper ranges from Massachusetts to south Brazil, but is common throughout Florida, Central America and the northeastern coast of South America. This includes the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Carribean Sea, Bermuda and the Bahamas. They spawn from April to September and the best time to target them is in the winter/spring months.
How to catch
Muttons are easy to catch, but some finesse is needed. The most important rule of thumb is that bait presentation is vital. Use only the freshest bait and light sinkers to keep it motionless on the bottom. If the water's rough, slow bobbing motions will be necessary to compensate for the movement of the seas. Using a knocker rig or a jig to naturally drift the bait in the current is also a good way to go. This is why holding the rod will be better than leaving it in the rod holder when targeting Mutton Snapper.
A good tip for shallow waters - free drift the bait in chum slick on no weight or on a very small weight on a knocker rig. Muttons love this. Chumming is also very good for getting them to the surface, where you can try your luck with flies or jigs.
Generally, when choosing bait, live or very fresh dead options will work best - speedo mackerel, herring, goggle eye, balyhoo, squid, shrimp, crabs etc.
Uncanny resemblance to the Red Snapper. Caught aboard Blackwater Charters in Islamorada, FL
Good to eat?
Firm, white and delicious flesh, often marketed as, and resembling, Red Snapper meat.
Season - always open;
Size limit - minimum 16'';
Bag limit (per angler per day) - 10, within the Snapper aggregate;
Fish Species Similar to Snapper (Mutton)
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