How to identify a Yellowtail Snapper

This colorful reef fish is easily identifiable. The body is olive or bluish gray above with olive-yellow spots and blotches. It has a prominent, brilliant yellow stripe running from the tip of the snout through the eye to the tail; the dorsal fin is also mostly yellow. The deeply forked tail is bright yellow, hence the name.Adult yellowtail snappers may reach a maximum length of 30 inches. This fish rarely exceeds weights of 5 pounds and sexual maturity is attained at lengths of 10-12 inches. Life expectancy is typically 6-14 years.Although most teeth in the upper jaw are densely packed, fine, or hair like "villiform" teeth, there are several canine teeth present as well – the latter constituting a definitive characteristic of all snappers. The lower jaw, which projects slightly beyond the upper, has larger villiform teeth.

Where to catch Yellowtail Snapper

In the western Atlantic, yellowtail snapper range from Massachusetts and Bermuda to southwestern Brazil; including the Gulf of Mexico. They are very scarce in the northern reaches of their range but are very abundant in the Bahamas, southern Florida and throughout the Caribbean.Yellowtail inhabit coastal waters to a depth of 300 ft and are mainly found associated with coral reefs. It can be found well above the bottom in loose schools or alone.


How to Identify a Yellowtail Snapper
 1 Prominent, brilliant yellow stripe running from the tip of the snout through the eye to the tail

 2 Olive or bluish gray body above with olive-yellow spots and blotches

 3 Deeply forked tail is bright yellow


  • Bays
  • Mangroves
  • Reefs, Wrecks, and Shoals

  • Coastal Waters
  • Night Fishing
  • Rocky Sea Floor

Acknowledgements:  We thank (, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Natural Resources for their contributions to these FISH FACTS.