Golden Snapper

Golden Snapper, Lutjanus inermis

The Golden Snapper, Lutjanus inermis, whose common Spanish name is pargo rabirrubia and whose local name is pargo, is a species in the Snapper or Lutjanidae Family, known collectively as pargos in Mexico. Globally, there are sixty-seven species in the genus Lutjanus, nineteen of which are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and nine in the Pacific.

The Golden Snappers have very elongated bodies with an overall red tinge and narrow brown stripes on their sides that run obliquely above the lateral line. They have a large oblique mouth and large eyes. Their anal fin is pointed and has 11 rays (a key to identification); their caudal fin is deeply forked; and their dorsal fin is continuous with a pointed end and 10 spines. They have a white blotch below the posterior end of their dorsal fin. Their fins are dark reddish-brown except for their caudal fin which is very dark.

The Golden Snappers are found over rocky bottoms and close to caves and crevices forming diurnal aggregations at depths up to 230 feet, with the maximum depth established by a fish that I caught. They reach a maximum length of 39 cm (15 inches). They feed on crabs, mollusks, octopus, shrimp, and small fish. They are a very rare species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Golden Snappers have a limited distribution being found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of the Baja, in the southern 20% of the Sea of Cortez (established by fish that I caught), and from Mazatlan southward along the coastal mainland to Guatemala.

The Golden Snapper can be confused with the Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus (11 or 12 dorsal spines; 7 or 8 anal rays) and the Whipper Snapper, Lutjanus jordani (silvery appearance; 9 anal rays).

The Golden Snappers are quality food but exceedingly rare, thus not a significant food fish. One morning in April 2006, I recall finding them up on the surface feeding on red tuna crabs. Within two hours, we put eighty-six fish in the boat on fly-lined live red tuna crabs providing all the residents of La Playita with fresh snapper for dinner. Following that outing many years ago, I have only ever caught one other Golden Snapper in twenty years of fishing the coastal waters of Los Cabos.

Golden Snapper, Lutjanus inermis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, April 2006. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Fish identification courtesy of Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

Golden Snapper (2)

Golden Snapper, Lutjanus inermis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, July 2015. Length: 25 cm (10 inches).