The snappers are a large and diverse group of robustbodied, carnivorous fishes. Most species possess relatively large mouths with stout canine teeth and bodies covered with relatively large, coarse scales. They are frequently brightly coloured. They are demersal (spending most time swimming close to the sea bed) in some cases down to 450m and are found in the tropical and sub topical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

There are over one hundred individual species globally, but within the North America – Atlantic Coast – temperate eco-region there are only a limited number of species that you are likely to see at diving depth, and these will tend to be in the warmer waters of the region.

The dog snapper (Lutjanus jocu) is the largest member of the family that you are likely to see in the region, and it can be found as far north as Massachusetts. With a maximum length of 128 cm and weighing around 25 kg, it will commonly be found around rocky or coral reefs. The back and upper sides are olive brown with a bronze tinge, sometimes with narrow pale bars. The lower sides and belly are lightish-red with a copper tinge. Its diet consists mainly of other smaller fishes and bottom dwelling invertebrates such as shrimps, crabs, gastropods and cephalopods.

Other species that you might encounter whilst diving in the region are shown below. The approximate maximum adult size is also included in the list, as is the most northerly state where you would expect to see a particular species – but be prepared to be surprised!

  • Blackfin Snapper Lutjanus buccanella 75cm NC
  • Grey Snapper Lutjanus griseus 89cm MA
  • Lane Snapper Lutjanus synagris 60cm NC
  • Mahogany Snapper Lutjanus mahogoni 48cm NC
  • Mutton Snapper Lutjanus analis 94cm MA
  • Northern Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus 100cm MA
  • Queen Snapper Etelis oculatus 100cm NC
  • Schoolmaster Snapper Lutjanus apodus 65cm MA
  • Silk Snapper Lutjanus vivanus 83cm NC
  • Vermillion Snapper Rhomboplites aurorubens 60cm NC
  • Wenchman Pristipomoides aquilonaris 56cm NC
  • Yellowtail Snapper Ocyurus chrysurus 85cm MA