Form the smallest species to the giant Cuberas I simply love to fish for them; I love their ambush behaviour, their strong fight and their intelligence; they not only seem to know exactly how to take full advantage of their environment while trying to escape, but some species also learn quickly lures and presentations, they learn by their mates actions and know pretty soon how to recognize our lures if fishing pressure is high.
It happened to me several time to catch a couple specimen of Caribbean Mangrove Snapper from a hole in a flat or a channel among the tree roots and have no more strike, only to see several dozens of them hiding in the same place upon visual inspection; sometimes even loosing a fish on a hookoff was enought to completely shut down the bite, maybe they still followed, looked at the lure from inches, even hit it with the snout but never really taking it.
Not that all the species react the same way, many time we can see competition, some species are very gregarious, other are badly territorial at some times; I rememeber many situation in which caribbean Cuberas were completely unactive toward our poppers or sticks, but it was enough to have a barracuda try a bite to trigger a super aggressive reaction, with them either stealing the lure from the cuda or hitting directly the competitor, no matter if as long as them... a badass fish that surely is in the top of my personal favs.
I think I will talk a lot about my experiences and theories on different species, environment, way to catch them and to fight them, and of course the right tackle and lures; but, being a very big world, probably worth several books that I am not able to write, let's make it in small digestible pieces.... this time it will be just a list or gallery of the species I have encountered.
I want to begin with caribbean waters, more specifically cuban waters, because those are the places where I moved my first step into exotic and tropical fishing.
There are several glamorous species and some less known ones, here they go:
-Mangrove Snapper ( Lutjanus griseus ); as it name suggests it loves trees roots especially in juvenile sizes up to a couple kilos, then they usually migrate to deeper areas.
-Mutton Snapper ( Lutjanus analis ), pargo criollo in Cuba; it preferes reefs, weed flats and, the center of the canals between the mangroves and more open environment than the previous and normal size inshore is anywhere from 1 to 5-6 kilos but biggest I have seen, not caught by me, was around 14 kilos.
-Dog Snapper ( Lutjanus jocu ), pargo jocu in Cuba, always confused with the cubera as it grows big, but it doesn't have the same XL canine dentition and also lacks its big sister's strenght, it can be recognized by the light stripe under the eye; it likes the same environments of the mutton and they sometimes mix; my bigget was around 15 kilos.
-Atlantic Cubera Snapper ( Lutjanus cyanopterus ), the king ( or queen as cubera is femenine name ) of west atlantic snappers and one of the meanest and biggest of all family worldwide as can reach over 60 kilos in truly uncatchable specimens. People often ask me if it is harder to catch a big GT or a big Cubera, I just answer telling them to look around in books, magazines and socials; they reach somewhat similar sizes but while you see plenty of 40-50 kilos GT on popping tacke you almost never see comparable cuberas caught with same tackle ... guess why? :DNot so simple of course as trevallies are fantastic adversaries and maybe big cuberas are not so easily encountered, but it helps to develop the idea.
-Schoolmaster Snapper (Lutjanus apodus ), another little brother, my biggest maybe 1 kilo and half, in my experience it tends to hide more than other species and to love shadow and seldom roam free waters... but this goes in contrast with literature so I am probably wrong :D
-Yellowtail snapper ( Ocyurus chrysurus ), not a "Lutjanus" but still a snapper, rubia for spanish people; a small fish, max 4 kilos, more often in the 0.5 to 1.5 kilos range, but very gregarious, love free water and often very aggressive striking lures as big as itself... not a challenge on medium tackle but possibly a blast on light game.. too bad it is a favourite snack for many bigger predators, first of all the great barracuda, always ready to steal it from your line.
-Silk Snapper, ( Lutjanus vivanus ), Pargo del alto in Cuba... I put it and the following one in the list just to complete it as I caught very few ones only on deep jigging on southern cuban waters; I don't even have the pictures handy so I put a Fishbase one .... of very little or non interest for our fishing techniques... but very good eating :D
There are a handful of other species in that part of the world that I haven't caught, the most important among them is probably the Red Snapper ( Lutjanus campechanus ), a sought after catch in all southern USA... someday I will have to add them to my search list.
Next time the snappers of another part of the world.