- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Mutton snapper (Lutjanus)
Mutton snapper are medium-sized member of the snapper family with a torpedo-shaped body distinguished by a high, sloping back. They vary greatly in color and can be orange, red or silver-green. Red coloring is more pronounced in larger mutton, which are often confused with the red snapper. Younger mutton snapper are olive-green with blue stripes that disappear as they mature. All mutton snapper have a black spot below the dorsal fin and bright blue stripes on the head and gills.
The anal and dorsal fins are red and pointed. The dorsal fin has 10 spines and 14 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 8 soft rays. The pectoral fins are reddish and exceptionally long. The tail fin is large, slightly forked with several soft rays. Mutton snapper have a small mouth in proportion to their bodies. A v-shaped tooth patch on the roof of the mouth has small sharp teeth made for gripping their prey.
Mutton snapper spawn primarily at night during the late spring and summer. Spawning occurs during full moon phases and they frequently travel in large schools. Females release as many as one million eggs well above the bottom of the ocean. These eggs are less than 1 millimeter in diameter. The male then releases sperm that mixes with and fertilizes the eggs. Once fertilized, eggs float to the surface and hatch in approximately 24 hours.
Mutton snapper feeding habits change as they mature. Larvae eat plankton near the surface of the ocean. Young mutton snapper feed on larger plankton and small organisms in shallow grass beds and near the sea floor. As they mature, mutton snapper prefer prey such as shrimp, snails, crabs and smaller fish near the bottom. They feed throughout the day and night.
Mutton snapper are found throughout the western Atlantic, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. They are found as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Brazil. They are most common near the Antilles, the Bahamas and southern Florida.
Young mutton snapper are found inshore at shallow depths of 5 to 60 feet. They prefer soft, sandy bottoms with grass and other sparse vegetation. Older mutton snapper prefer rock bottoms and coral reefs near offshore ledges and continental shelves in 60 to 300 feet of water. Occasionally, they are found in bays, estuaries and around islands.
Mutton snapper prefer warm water temperatures. They travel alone or in small groups that break up in the evening. Like most snappers, mutton snapper typically stay near the bottom of the ocean near some type of underwater structure.
� Mutton snapper have white meat that is often marketed and sold as red snapper.
� Mutton snapper are the only snapper with a v-shaped tooth patch that also have the black spot underneath the dorsal fin.
� Eating mutton snapper has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal digestive disorder.
� Anglers should exercise caution when they are pulled into the boat because they have sharp teeth and a strong bite.