Yellowtail Snapper or Lutjans catfish is found in the coastal areas in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, in the same waters as the large yellowfin tuna. The smaller yellowtail is called the blacktail, which can grow to three feet long. These fish typically spawn in summer and are said to be the strongest predator on smaller fish. They can also become prey to bigger predatory fish such as the blackfin, blue marlin, barracuda, black (or blue)fin tuna, and other pelagic sharks and tuna.
Yellowtail snapper, Lutjannus chrysummulatus. This deep-water snapper likes schooling along muddy bottoms in and around shallow reefs in and around western Atlantic. It has a bright yellow lateral line which begins off thin and narrow near the eyes and broadens as it extends towards the main body. The spine has a spine that forks in mid-line. Its anal fin is long and thin with two pointed tips, but if you look closely you will see that it has a series of little spines running across its back. The head of this fish has a long and lean body that is triangular in shape.
Yellowtail snapper, Lutjannus anemoneurosis, lives along the East Cost of Florida along the southern shores of the Gulf of Mexico. These fish are frequently found off the shores of central Florida and along the offshore oil rigs in the far north Atlantic waters. They can be found in shallow water around rocks and shoals where they feed by gizzard feeding on algae. In the far north Atlantic waters these fish spawn in clear waters and go home to lay eggs. These types of fishes have good eyesight and good hearing, but unfortunately no sense of smell, although they are very good at picking up the fish’s scent from the bottom of the ocean.
This species of yellowtail snapper, which was so named from a yellow stripe down the center of the fish’s body, is similar to the common red snapper but smaller than the latter. The difference comes from the fact that the yellow stripes are only on the top half of the body. The color range of this species extends from dark gray to light yellow to a nearly white color. It also has black lines on its tail.
Yellowtail snappers are generally caught by accident when divers inadvertently go snorkeling and come upon them feeding on an anchor. Once the hungry fishes latch onto their torches and begin eating, they quickly escape from the water. However, when this type of fish is repeatedly caught in nets, it becomes difficult for authorities to determine where these fishes originated. Often, divers searching for such a fish are themselves surprised to find the population dwelling in clear waters.
Yellowtail snapper is a bony fish, with a head just like that of the blue water bass. It doesn’t differ much from its bass cousin in that it has two rows of pointed teeth lined up just under each eye. These teeth are lined up in a distinct manner, with upper and lower points of each paired facing inward. This unique trait makes it easy for yellowtail snapper to snap its prey just before the prey strikes it. The tip of the knife-like mouth is also lined with rows of sharp spikes along the upper sides and lower sides of the head.
Yellowtail snapper is a fast swimmer and makes for a great fish for large schools or groups of divers. They are easily lured into deeper reefs, but can escape easily if the water gets too rough. These fishes are commonly found in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and Brazil. There they are frequently caught as bycatch of big game fish. Yellowtail snapper is also occasionally seen in cool streams and rivers, which is another good reason to know how to recognize these fishes.
These fish are great additions to any coastal aquarium. The beauty and dramatic colours of their dorsal and anal fins are very attractive to the eye. It is not uncommon for the fish to hang out near coral reefs, too, where they prey on smaller fish. If the yellowtail snapper in your area is scarce, you might want to consider bringing in a black fin shark instead. Though they are not nearly as colorful, they will do nicely in a community tank.