Mangrove Snapper

Mangrove or Gray Snappers can exist in fresh, brackish, or salt water, preferably of temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They range as far north as Massachusetts and all the way south along the western Atlantic coastline to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. They are also abundant in Indo-Pacific waters from eastern Africa to Samoa, continuing north to the Ryuku Islands then south to Australia. Some populations have dispersed into the eastern Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

These lively fish are gray or dark brown on top, especially along the nose, with orange or reddish spots forming rows along the sides. Dark or reddish borders highlight the dorsal fins. Basic coloration may change from bright to coppery red, with specimens from deeper waters exhibiting deeper shades of red than others. Two menacing canine teeth hang from the upper jaw. These jaws will lock down hard upon a hook or any available piece of food. A dark band extending from the snout and through the eye is most prominent in juveniles but remains visible in many adults. These popular fish are frequently caught at sizes up to 12 pounds, but are more common around two pounds in weight. Any Gray over five pounds is considered large, but they have been documented to grow as heavy as 29.5 pounds. The record for Mangrove Snapper is 17 pounds.

These structure-oriented fish can be quite happy in water as shallow as a one foot deep, especially when young. They typically spawn from June through August throughout mangrove estuaries and the lower reaches of freshwater streams. Juveniles remain inshore and in backwaters among mangroves, grass beds, small docks, and tidal creeks. Upon reaching adulthood these fish will move out of inlets to prowl and grow, mostly near shore. As age and size increase, adults eventually migrate offshore to water depths between 20 and 70 feet, where they will hang out around wrecks, oil rigs, and on coral or rocky reefs. Mangrove Snappers prefer to feed on crustaceans and small fish by night.

Mangrove Snappers are extremely wary and notorious bait thieves, but once hooked these fish are considered to be, pound for pound, some of the fiercest fighters in the sea. They will not only pull, run, shake, and jump, but may also give strike at your digits with their teeth. They are not called snappers for nothing! Grays are delicious and extremely popular as meals because of their sweet, white, flaky meat. The best flavor comes from Mangrove Snappers between two and five pounds in weight.