Other Names: Bee-liner, Mingo, Bastard Snapper, Vermillion Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens)
Range & Habitat: Gulf wide in waters 80 to 350 feet deep. They often form large schools, suspended off of the bottom over large, rocky, bottom protrusions called “lumps” in the northern Gulf of Mexico. When near the bottom, they prefer a rocky bottom, although they can be caught at offshore oil and gas platforms. Although vermilion snapper are found Gulf wide, Florida and Alabama anglers make most of the recreational catch in the eastern Gulf.
Identification & Biology: Body color is vermilion red above; fading to pink on the lower sides, then silver on the belly. They have fine diagonal to horizontal yellow stripes below the lateral line. It has a more streamlined body shape than most other snappers.
Vermilion snappers feed very little on bottom creatures, preferring tiny pinhead-size plankton such as copepods, amphipods, and larval stomatopods, crabs, fish, and shrimp. Vermilion snappers spawn repeatedly between late April and the end of September. Each female is estimated to spawn 23 to 93 times per season. The number of eggs varies with the size of the fish, from about 20,000 for a 7-inch fish to 350,000 for a 15-inch fish. They are small snappers and relatively slow-growing, reaching only 5-7 inches by age 1. Sexual maturity usually occurs in their third or fourth year at 10-12 inches although some mature in their first year. Their growth rate is quite variable, with fish of the same age being of dramatically different sizes. Vermilion snappers can live to 21 years old.
Size: Averages 1-2 pounds, occasionally over 5 pounds.
Market Description: Excellent table fare, with a mild sweet flavor and firm, flaky flesh.
Buying Tips: When purchasing the whole fish, look for clear, red eyes and bright red skin that fades into white towards the belly. Buy fillets with the skin on; not only does it make for easier grilling but helps hold in some flavor and gives you a good look at the color of the skin for quality purposes.
Recommended Preparation: Can be eaten raw or cooked using most traditional cooking methods like sautéing or baking, but is excellent grilled.
Available in: Year Round