Mullet Snapper

Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus

The Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus, whose common Spanish name is pargo raicero, 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 Mullet Snappers have elongated bodies that are greenish-gray in color and darker on the back. The center of each scale is yellowish-white, which gives the appearance of alternating dark and light stripes on their sides. Their caudal fin is concave and dark red-brown. Their anal fin is rounded with 3 spines and 7 or 8 rays and their dorsal fin is continuous and rounded at the end with 11 or 12 spines and 12 rays. The large prominent scales on their upper back are in rows that run parallel to the lateral line.

The Mullet Snappers are found in large aggregations at mid-water over rocky bottoms at depths up to 200 feet. Juveniles can be found in coastal bays and estuaries. They reach a maximum length of 1.0 meter (3 feet 3 inches) and 15 kg (33 pounds) in weight.  They are a very rare species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Mullet Snapper are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception of the northern 30% of the Sea of Cortez. I have seen photos of large Mullet Snappers taken in the greater La Paz area, however, this species is virtually unknown in the Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos areas.

The Mullet Snapper can be confused with the Golden Snapper, Lutjanus inermis (oblique scale lines above lateral line; ten dorsal spines; 11 anal rays) and the Whipper Snapper, Lutjanus jordani (silvery appearance; ten dorsal spines; nine anal rays).

The Mullet Snappers are too rare to be of interest to most.

Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus. Fish caught off a pier in Golfito Costa Rica, Costa Rica, March 2011. Length: 23 cm (9.1 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Identification reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus. Fish caught out from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 61 cm (24 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.

Mullet Snapper, Lutjanus aratus. Fish caught from shore at Los Barriles, Baja California Sur, January 2017. Length: 88 cm (35 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.