Prehistoric, monstrous and brutish are some of the ways in which you can describe the biggest, badest snapper in the ocean. Black snapper or dog tooth snapper are some of the names that the Cubera Snapper, (Lutjanus novemfasciatus) In the Pacific and (Lutjanus cyanopterus) in the Atlantic, may also go by. The Cubera Snappers most prominent features are the four large canine teeth that really stand out whenever you see this beast of a fish. They have fairly large scales and are a deep reddish colour, when the fish has its “lights” on you can see a bright blue streak under its eye and some dusky bars along its flanks. These are not always very prominent though and generally only show when the fish is very lit up.
These giant snapper can be found in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to the Amazon river in Brazil and on the Pacific side from the Gulf of California (sea of Cortez) down to Panama, Colombia and even Peru. Being an inshore fish they are found in the shallows and up to around 100-150ft, and like most snapper, they love caves, rocky out crops, over hangs and reefs. Cubera Snapper are ferocious hunters when they are actually hunting. When they hit a bait, it‘s like a freight train, although if they miss, it is not very often that they come back as they are already on their way back to their little hole or home to wait to pounce on something else. Cubera feed on any other smaller fish, love crustaceans, and are very active and good night time predators.
For the angler who enjoys catching different species this is the ultimate snapper! Around the world there are a few that are very similar, namely the “river or “mangrove” snapper found in the west indo Pacific area and an Africa snapper. These three snapper and a few others around the world grow to that incredible 100lb. (45kg) size. All of them are that dark red colour, have four extremely large canine teeth. Their body and fin shapes are almost identical as well as their habitats and behavior. They are all slow growing fish as well and so it is important to release these toothy critters so other anglers may feel what its like t take one on. Some times they can come up and be embolized and so it is important to vent these fish before releasing them.
My introduction to these fantastic species was in Africa with a large African snapper caught off a river bank. It was a calm summer night, the moon reflecting off the calm waters of an inlet. The currents where swirling just ahead of me from the outgoing tide hitting the ledge just a few feet out. My live Mullet was spooked and the next second my drag started to scream. The fish had me up and down that little piece of dew covered grass along the rock out crop going this way and that trying to keep it out of the crevices and holes. The fish was strong and unrelenting, but eventually victory was mine as I got the dark red beauty onto the bank. When my fishing buddies got back down to the inlet after a nights rest they couldn’t believe the size of the snapper. It was around 50lb and dinner the next night was incredible. I will never forget that first big snapper of mine and now love targeting them with live bait and on surface poppers.
The Pacific Cubera Snapper is an extremely hard fighting fish that can be caught using a lot of different techniques, including, Jigging, popping, casting spoons, buck tail jigs, live bait and dead bait. Cuberas are very aggressive when they hit a bait and my belief is that they are very lazy. Most of the time when a Cubera hits your bait, he is already on his way back to his comfy little spot down below. If he has missed the bait it is not very common for them to come back again although this does happen. Cubera are very slow growing fish and so live a very long time. It is for this reason we ask people to release them, yes they are great tasting fish but please practice catch and release so that our future generatios can also experience such a great species.
When you catch and release your Cubera Snapper, why not fly our Skallywags Guy Harvey Battle Flags and celebrate that momentous moment?!
Tight lines & fair seas, Captain Richard White coming at you from Tropic Star Lodge, Pinas Bay, Panama.