Today we are starting a series of posts that will showcase some of the fishes we encounter on a weekly basis. We plan on including both common fishes, oddballs, a little biology, and lots of pictures! Often we find fishes that are everyday sights to us, may be very interesting to people who don’t have the luxury of seeing them as often. With that in mind, I wanted to start off by covering the differences between two common species of snapper that I saw today, the vermillion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens) and the silk snapper (Lutjanus vivanus). As adults these two species are easy to separate, as the silk snapper grows much larger, but between 10 and 20 inches these fishes are often mixed up.
Upon an initial glance, the two species seem awfully similar, they are both red, both snappers, and both have faint parallel yellow lines along their sides. Looking at a still picture of both fishes side by side, one obvious difference is the eye color.
Vermillion snapper have a red eye, while the silk snapper have a diagnostic yellow eye. The silk snapper also has yellow tinged pectoral fins, anal fin, dorsal fin, and caudal fin, where the vermillion is red all around. These yellow tinged fins may be subtle in the above picture, but are much more obvious in person. The vermillion snapper is rather slender compared to the silk, with a smaller head and shorter snout.
The vermillion snapper tends to live in more shallow water than the silk, and is often caught on headboats and charters while bottom fishing wrecks and reefs. The silk snapper on the other hand is generally caught in much deeper waters, and is rarely if ever seen on typical headboat trips.
Finally, both species can be distinguished from the fish they are most commonly confused with, the Red Snapper by the lack of pale yellow bands along its sides.
This post is intended to be as generic as possible while still helping readers identify their catch. If you need specifics, the following images will better assist you.
Vermillion vs Silk Snappers
And lastly, a few external links: