The beautiful Yellowtail Snapper Fish – Lutjanus chrysurus or Ocyurus chrysurus, also known as the Yellowtail and Cola, resides in warm tropical waters at depths of 30 to 120 feet. The meat of the Yellowtail Snapper isn’t as popular as many other fish, but it is sold fresh in the markets of the Bahamas.
The olive to blue-ish coloration, with yellow spots on the back and upper sides of this snapper combined with alternating narrow pink and yellow stripes running the length of the lower sides and belly; and the dramatic mid lateral yellow stripe beginning at the mouth and extending down to the caudal fin base, which becomes wider as it passes the dorsal fins make this fish very distinctive. With a yellow caudal fin with whitish anal and pelvic fins the Yellowtail Snapper is a beautiful fish, which unlike other Snappers never displays a dark lateral spot.
The Yellowtail Snapper resides in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of North America and have been found as far north as Massachusetts, but are especially found around the Bahamas and Florida, down through the West Indies as far as Brazil. The reefs of the Florida Keys are the ideal place for divers and snorkelers to embrace the beauty of these fish, as they tend to inhabit reefs and other structures just 30 to 120 feet below the surface.
The Yellowtail Snapper spawn all year round, peaking at different times in different locations, although spawning does decline in winter months. The eggs hatch within 24 hours, released in open water the eggs contain a droplet of oil to assist with buoyancy as they are carried by the tides until the larvae comes to rest on suitable substrate that offers some protection from predators.
Yellowtail Snappers can reach lengths of 30 inches, yet rarely exceeds a weight of 5 pounds.
The life expectancy of these fish is between 6 and 14 years.
These nocturnal predators feed on crabs, shrimp, cephalopods, worms and other small fish. While the young Yellowtail Snappers living amongst the sea grass feeds on plankton.
Yellowtail Snapper is a prized source of fish meat for the angler and the commercial fisherman, the angler typically uses hook and line bated with ‘chum’ compact and frozen fish parts to attract the snapper. The slowly melting ‘chum’ will keep the fish near the boat for a longer period of time enabling the sports angler to catch more of the fish. Yellowtail Snapper are also trawl fished commercially.
Commercial shrimp trawlers can devastate juvenile populations as they make their homes over soft bottom areas which contain high populations of shrimp.
Yellowtail Snapper Predators
Adult Yellowtail Snappers face the dangers of being eaten by other larger predatory fish, including other Snapper species, Barracuda, Mackerel and Grouper, while the larvae and young fish face a huge array of predators of mostly larger fish.