Yellowtail Snapper

Yellowtail Snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus

The Yellowtail Snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus, whose common Spanish name is rubia, is a species in the Snapper or Lutjanidae Family, known collectively as pargos in Mexico. Globally, there is only one species in the genus Ocyurus, this species that is found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.

The Yellowtail Snappers have elongated slender bodies that are blue dorsally and transition to pink then to white ventrally. They have a prominent yellow mid-lateral stripe that begins on the snout, broadens as it passes along the body and continues into the tail. Above the stripe they have spots on a blue background; below the stripe they have narrow yellow stripes on a lighter background. They have a pointed snout with a small oblique mouth and a projecting lower jaw; they lack the prominent canine teeth found in other snappers. Their anal fin has 3 spines, the third being longer than the second, and 8 or 9 rays; their caudal fin is long and deeply forked with the upper lobe being longer than the lower lobe; their dorsal fin is continuous with 10 strong spines, the fifth being the longest, and 12 to 14 rays; and their pectoral fins are long and reach the anal fin origin. Their fins vary in color from clear to deep yellow-brown.

The Yellowtail Snappers are found over deep water reefs at depths between 65 and 230 feet with a few fish known as “flags” found over reefs as deep as 600 feet. They reach a maximum of 85 cm (34 inches) in length and 4 kg (9 pounds) in weight. They are more pelagic than other snappers and seldom seen in abundance. Females lay between 100,000 and 1.5 million pelagic eggs annually which hatch within twenty hours. They have a lifespan of approximately fourteen years.

In Mexican waters the Yellowtail Snappers are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Yellowtail Snapper cannot be confused with any other species due to its unique coloration.

The Yellowtail Snappers are considered an excellent food fish with a significant commercial fishery; for example in the State of Florida two million pounds of this fish valued at four million dollars are caught annually. From a recreational perspective they are viewed as one of the better opponents because they are wary biters.

Yellowtail Snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, August 2014. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.