- 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.
Common snook (Centropomus)
The common snook has a slender, streamlined body with large fins. Its yellowish-gray back is separated from its silvery sides and abdomen by a distinct black lateral line that runs from the top of its gills to the end of its tail, which gives this fish the nickname linesider. It has a large mouth with brushlike teeth and a protruding lower jaw. Its elongated head and snout taper to a point and it has a sloped forehead that leads up to tall, divided dorsal fins. Most of the fins are yellowish, and are especially bright during the spawn. Overall color varies according to habitat; specimens living in rivers have a much darker cast.
The first dorsal fin has eight to nine spines and the second dorsal fin has 10 rays. The pectoral fins have 15 to 16 rays. The anal fin has six rays and three spines that are quite short in comparison to those of other snook species. The tail is moderately forked.
Other than the much larger size it attains, the common snook can be differentiated from other species of snook mainly by its more elongate body. There are other distinguishing features as well: the fat snook has smaller scales; the tarpon snook has a more upturned mouth; and the swordspine snook has a disproportionately long anal spine.
Common snook are aggressive carnivores that eat fish, crabs, shrimps and other crustaceans that live in both fresh water and salt water. They have two daily feeding peaks: the first is two hours before sunrise, and the second is two to three hours after sunset. They also feed during strong tidal flows, which carry food into their vicinity. They sometimes feed in open water but are known to hide around available cover and ambush prey as it passes by.
As spring arrives and the necessity arises to regain lost body fat and store protein in anticipation of spawning, common snook move west to look for food in creeks, flats and the mouths of rivers, where sardines comprise the bulk of their diet. Along the way, the opportunistic fish will eat species not normally part of their diet.
Common snook are found in the western Atlantic from southern Florida south to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, most of the Caribbean islands and the Caribbean coast of Central and South America. They are mostly absent in the Bahamas. When the waters are warm enough, they are found as far north as North Carolina.
Common snook are inshore fish that are frequently found in shallow, brackish estuaries and lagoons. They can also be found in some freshwater rivers and canals near shore. They use structures such as mangroves, reefs and rock formations for ambush cover, and usually stay near the substratum at depths of less than 65 feet and not over 72 feet. They can tolerate both fresh water and salt water, and prefer water temperatures of 68 to 78 F. Usually they cannot tolerate water temperatures below 58 F, but recently it has been discovered that if the temperature slowly falls to no colder than about 50 F, the fish can acclimate and survive, though they will become dormant and may float toward the surface.
In late summer or early fall they move to the upper parts of estuaries, where they remain for the winter. However, they do not normally migrate great distances, especially in the Gulf. They may also stay in ship channels, turning basins, warm water discharges near power plants, or under bridges. These areas are protected and have relatively stable temperatures.
Juveniles are found in shallow areas with low salinity, sloped banks, slow currents, overhanging vegetation, and structure to provide shelter. They move to the higher-salinity areas of the lower estuary as they begin to mature.
- The word snook comes from the Dutch word snoek, which means pike. Most anglers pronounce the word as snuk (like took), but in some regions it is pronounced snuke (like fluke).
- The scientific name of the common snook is Centropomus undecimalis. Centropomus means "sharp-pointed lid," referring to the snooks razor-edged gill covers, which make the use of a wire leader necessary. Undecimalis signifies 11 and refers to the 11 rays of the second dorsal fin.
- The common snooks black lateral line helps them sense prey movement and other objects in the water around them.
- The Florida snook population declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to over- fishing, loss of habitat, and pollution, but numbers have increased to safe levels since 1982 when the fish was given protected status in Florida. The state banned commercial capture and sale of snook in 1957.