Species Identification

Snappers are a very large family of fish comprised of nearly 100 different species, all of them living in either tropical or sub-tropical habitats throughout the world's oceans. This page will deal with two of the more common fishing species in North America: the red and Vermilion snapper.


Both vermilion and red snappers belong to the redfish family, and so their color is predominantly red. Vermilion snappers have streamlined bodies which are pale to silver white below and vermilion (orange-red) above. They have narrow, yellow-gold streaks (some horizontal and others oblique) below the lateral line. The dorsal fin is rosy colored with a yellow edge. The caudal fin is red with a faint black edge. Meanwhile red snappers have a long triangular face with upper margin sloping more strongly than the lower; jaws are equal or the lower slightly projecting; some enlarged canine teeth; tend to be redder with deeper water.

Maximum Size

Red snappers are among the biggest species of snappers, growing to lengths approaching 40 inches (101 cm) and weights of up to 50 pounds (22.7 kg).Vermilion snappers reach a maximum length of 24 inches (61 cm). Other snappers around the world can grow to much larger weights, like the cubera snapper, found primarily in Central and South America.

Geographic Range

Vermilion snappers live in tropical waters of the western Atlantic from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to southeastern Brazil, including Bermuda, the West Indies, and the Gulf of Mexico. Red snappers have a similar range, but going further south, starting in the Gulf of Mexico and towards the eastern coast of north, central, and southern South America. They are rare north of the Carolinas.


Vermilion snappers inhabit depths of 59 to 400 feet (18-122m) but are most abundant at depths less than 180 feet (55m). In the South Atlantic, vermilion snapper are found over live bottom habitat, rock rubble, and outcroppings. In the Gulf of Mexico, they are generally associated with low profile, hard bottom habitat.Red snappers live at depths from 33 to 623 feet (10-189m). Adults typically live on the bottom and are usually found near hard structures on the continental shelf that have moderate to high relief, such as coral reefs, artificial reefs, rocky hard-bottom substrates, ledges and caves, sloping soft-bottom areas, and limestone outcroppings.

Life Span

Red snappers lead a longer than normal life compared to other snappers, living up to 55 years of age. In contrast, the vermilion snapper lives up to 26 years.


Snappers feed on small fish primarily, but bigger species also feast on cephalopods like octopus and squid.


Vermilions spawn from April to September, peaking during the summer months, along the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. Further south, vermilions spawning females are found at nearly all depths and latitudes where vermilion snapper normally occur. Reds spawn a month later on average than vermilions, doing so at shelf edge environments of moderate to high structural relief.


Almost any of the large carnivorous fish in grass beds and other inshore areas where young snappers reside (such as jacks, groupers, sharks, barracudas, and morays), large sea mammals, and turtles.

Information courtesy of NOAA.

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