Red snapper, a fish that doesn’t actually snap, is found in the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico. Small and mid-sized, red snapper are drawn to underwater structures like reefs, rocks, oil platforms, and shipwrecks. Large-sized red snapper spend most time on the open ocean bottom.
These fish can live to a maximum age of 50 and reach an average weight of 30 lbs. Red snapper reaches maturity around the length of 15 inches, or 2 to 5 years of age, and common adult size ranges between 24 inches and 39 inches in length.
As the name implies, red snappers have a rose-color, which fades near the belly. They have a distinctive red eye and pointed anal fins. Red snappers over 10 inches lack the black spot that signifies a juvenile.
The body is laterally compressed with a sloped profile and they also have medium scales and a spiny dorsal fin. This fish has 10 dorsal spines, 14 soft dorsal rays, 3 anal spines, and 8 to 9 anal soft rays.
Red snapper have short, sharp teeth without canines for feeding on fish, stomatopods, crab, zooplankton, and bottom worms. The diet changes by season and size of the fish.
Red snapper are found in shallow water during cooler months. Most are found between depths of 50 and 300 feet. Juveniles less than 10 inches long frequent shallow waters with mud or sandy bottoms. The fish mainly stay close to rocky terrain and the ocean bottom, but do form schools of similar-sized fish. The habitat and diet of red snapper changes as it matures. Newly hatched fish move to low-relief habitats, while larger fish spread into open habitats.
Red snapper distribution ranges from the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern coast of the United States. If you’re looking for red snapper, they are rarely found north of the Carolinas.