Pacific Dog Snapper

Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novenfasciatus

The Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novenfasciatus, who is also known as the Pacific Cubera Snapper and whose common Spanish name and local name is pargo prieto and/or pargo, is the largest member 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 Pacific Dog Snappers have massive bodies that vary from deep to light red and transition to silvery ventrally. Juveniles and most adults have eight or nine bars on the upper half of their sides (pictured below). In adults the bars may not be present or fade quickly after collection. They have a pointed snout and a large set of canine teeth that are longer than the diameter of the eye’s pupil. Their anal fin is rounded and has 3 spines and 7 or 8 rays; their caudal fin has a straight margin; their dorsal fin is continuous with a rounded tip and 10 spines. All their fins are dark. Their body is heavily scaled with the scale rows on the upper back being oblique above the lateral line.

The Pacific Dog Snappers are found in shallow waters within heavy rock structures and close to caves and crevices at depths up to 200 feet. Juveniles will enter fresh water streams and have been found up to 20 km (12 miles) upstream. They reach a maximum length of 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) and weight of 36 kg (79 pounds), which is the current IGFA world record, with this fish being caught in Costa Rica waters in 1988. I believe that fish larger than this record reside in the greater Los Cabos area. They feed at night on crustaceans and small schooling fish including croakers, grunts, and wrasses and take shelter during the day.

In Mexican waters the Pacific Dog Snapper are found in all waters of the Pacific.

The adult Pacific Dog Snapper is an easy fish to identify and cannot be confused with any other species. Smaller fish can be confused with the Barred Pargo, Hoplopagrus guentheri (similar bars; wider body profile), the Colorado Snapper, Lutjanus colorado (scale row above the dorsal fin are parallel) and the Graybar Grunt, Haemulon sexfasciatum (six thick dark bars; wider body profile).

The Pacific Dog Snappers are considered quality food fish. They are seasonal fish arriving some (but not all) years during the early summer months. Large fish are normally caught on large fly-lined live baits (white or striped mullet) but are exceedingly difficult to hook. Once hooked they are also extremely difficult to land making short and very rapid retreats into heavy rock structures. Smaller fish are accessible from the beach and can be caught on cut squid utilizing traditional surf rigs.

Length versus Weight Chart: I have included a Pacific Dog Snapper Weight From Length Conversion Table in this website to allow the accurate determination of a fish’s weight from its length and hopefully to promote its rapid and unharmed return to the ocean.

Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novemfasciatus: Fish collected out of the Km 17, El Tule, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, April 2009, during a rare occasion when fresh water was flowing in the river. Size: 5.8 cm (2.3 inches).Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novemfasciatus, Juvenile. Fish collected out of the Km 17, El Tule, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, April 2009, during a rare occasion when fresh water was flowing in the river. Length: 5.8 cm (2.3 inches).

Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novenfasciatus, Juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto.

Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novenfasciatus. Very nice head-shot of a fish caught from shore at Los Barriles, Baja California Sur, December 2017. Length: 58 cm (23 inches); Weight: 3.2 kg (7 pounds 0 oz). Catch courtesy of Ian Franck, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. Photo and identification courtesy of Brad Murakami, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Pacific Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novenfasciatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, July 2009. Length: 1.30 meters (4 feet 0 inches). Weight 23 kg (50 pounds).Dog Snapper, Lutjanus novemfasciatus: Fish caught from coastal waters off Loreto, Baja California Sur, May 2014. Length: 1.04 m (3 feet 5 inches). Weight: 19.4 Kg (49 pounds). Catch and photo courtesy of Danie Botha, Dawson Creek, British Columbia. A most interest catch for a kayak outing!