Yellowtail snapper

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Yellowtail snapper
Yellowtail snapper seen from Underwater Tunnel Atlantis.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Lutjanidae
Subfamily: Lutjaninae
Genus: Ocyurus
T. N. Gill, 1862
O. chrysurus
Binomial name
Ocyurus chrysurus
(Bloch, 1791)
  • Sparus chrysurus Bloch, 1791
  • Lutjanus chrysurus (Bloch, 1791)
  • Mesoprion chrysurus (Bloch, 1791)
  • Anthias rabirrubia Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
  • Sparus semiluna Lacépède, 1802
  • Mesoprion aurovittatus Agassiz, 1831
  • Ocyurus aurovittatus (Agassiz, 1831)
  • Ocyurus rijgersmaei Cope, 1871

The yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus) is an abundant species of snapper native to the western Atlantic Ocean including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Although they have been found as far north as Massachusetts, their normal range is along Florida south to the West Indies and Brazil. This species is mostly found around coral reefs, but may be found in other habitats. They occur at depths of from near the surface to 180 meters (590 ft), though mostly between 10 and 70 m (33 and 230 ft). This species can reach a length of 86.3 cm (34.0 in), though most do not exceed 40 cm (16 in).[2] The greatest weight recorded for this species is 4.98 kg (11.0 lb).[3] Yellowtail snapper is a commercially important species and has been farmed. It is sought as a game fish by recreational anglers and is a popular species for display in public aquaria. This species is the only known member of its genus.[2]

In certain reefs, most notably in the Florida Keys, this beautifully colored fish is commonly spotted among divers and snorkelers.

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

The yellowtail snapper was first formally described in 1791 as Sparus chrysurus by the German physician and naturalist Marcus Elieser Bloch with the type locality given as “Brazilian seas”.[4]

It is the sole member of the monotypic genus Ocyurus, the name of which is derived from the Greek words okys, meaning "swift", as in the bird, and oura, meaning "tail", a reference to the tail being forked like that of a swift.[2] Chrysurus is derived from the Greek word chryso, meaning "golden".[5]

Underwater photo of a yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus)

A taxonomic study of snappers within the subfamily Lutjaninae in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean indicated that the at monotypic genera Ocyurus and Rhomboplites sit within the genus Lutjanus.[6] Lutjanus ambiguus is considered by some authorities to most likely to be a hybrid between L. synagris and O. chrysurus, supporting the close relation between the two genera.[7]


Yellowtail snapper have a distinct yellow lateral band beginning at the snout that gets wider towards the forked tail, which is completely yellow. The rest of the fish is an olive to bluish black color with yellow spots above the lateral band.[8][9] The dorsal fin is yellow while the anal and pelvic fins are whitish.[10] by bony spines. The dorsal fin consists of 10 spines and between 10-12 soft rays, while the anal fins consist of 3 spines and 8-9 soft rays each.[2]

In contrast to other snapper species, the head and mouth of Ocyurus chrysurus are small and the species does not have a dark lateral spot below its dorsal fin.[10]


Yellowtail snapper are native to the Western Atlantic Ocean. Though their range extends as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as southeastern Brazil, the species is most common in the Bahamas, off the coast of south Florida and throughout the Caribbean.[2]

Natural predators of adult yellowtail snapper include large fishes such as barracuda, mackerel, grouper, sharks, and even other snapper species.[10] Yellowtails feed on shrimp, crabs, worms, and smaller fish.[2] They spawn in groups off the edges of reefs from spring to fall, but heavily in midsummer.[9]


Yellowtail snapper are typically caught in 30–120 ft of water on and around reefs and other structures.[2] The most common method of catching them is with hook and line, and the use of frozen chum, typically leftover ground fish parts, to attract the fish. The chum is placed into a mesh bag or metal basket in the water, and as the chum slowly melts, small pieces of fish drift out and down towards the bottom, where the yellowtails typically feed. The chum keeps them near the boat for extended periods of time, as well.[11]

Light tackle is the generally accepted means of catching yellowtail snapper. Typically, the fish are relatively wary of higher-test or thicker line, and larger hooks. Most fish caught by anglers range from eight to 14 in, although catches to 16 in are not uncommon. Larger fish are often called "flags" in the United States, as their tails resemble flags fluttering in the wind.[12] Yellowtail snapper can be caught on a variety of baits, including both live and frozen shrimp, squid, and a variety of live and frozen minnows or smaller baitfish. Yellowtail tend to be wary fish, and the appearance of larger predators, such as dolphins or sharks, can scare off schools until the predator leaves the area.

Most anglers pursue yellowtail snapper during the warmer months, but they can be caught throughout the year. Yellowtail snapper is highly prized for its light, flaky meat and is considered by some to be one of the best of the snapper family.

Normally, yellowtail are caught and sold to eat, especially in American cuisine.

Conservation and management[edit]

Yellowtail snapper is not overfished and the stock is not currently experiencing overfishing in the United States.[13] However, yellowtail stocks in Cuba and Brazil are overfished and the species is listed as highly vulnerable to overfishing in Mexico.[14] Management of the stock is extremely limited in this region.


  1. ^ Lindeman, K.; Anderson, W.; Carpenter, K.E.; Claro, R.; Cowan, J.; Padovani-Ferreira, B.; Rocha, L.A.; Sedberry, G.; Zapp-Sluis, M. (2016). "Ocyurus chrysurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T194341A2316114. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T194341A2316114.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2021). "Ocyurus chrysurus" in FishBase. February 2021 version.
  3. ^ "IGFA All Tackle Record, Bermuda". International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 2021-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Species in the genus Ocyurus". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  5. ^ Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara, eds. (5 January 2021). "Order Lutjaniformes: Families Haemulidae and Lutjanidae". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  6. ^ John R. Gold; Gary Voelker; Mark A. Renshaw (2011). "Phylogenetic relationships of tropical western Atlantic snappers in subfamily Lutjaninae (Lutjanidae: Perciformes) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 102 (4): 915–929. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2011.01621.x.
  7. ^ William F. Loftus (1992). "Lutjanus Ambiguus (Poey), a Natural Intergeneric Hybrid of this species and Lutjanus Synagris (Linnaeus)". Bulletin of Marine Science. 50 (3): 489–500.
  8. ^ "Yellowtail Snapper". Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  9. ^ a b "Yellowtail Snapper". Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  10. ^ a b c "Lutjanus chrysurus". Discover Fishes. Florida Museum. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Yellow Snapper". Project Noah. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  12. ^ "How to Catch Yellowtail Snapper". Salt Water Sportsman. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  13. ^ "SEDAR 64 Southeastern US Yellowtail Snapper | SEDAR". Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  14. ^ "Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Yellowtail Snapper". Retrieved 2021-04-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]