How to Catch a Cubera Snapper

How to Catch a Cubera Snapper

The Cubera snapper is also referred to as a Pacific snapper, Cuban snapper, and a Dog snapper. It closely resembles the mangrove red snapper. This type of snapper has four large canine teeth, is gray or dark brown with a possible red hue, and blunt gill rakers. Their young are a purplish-brown color. Some of the adults have a blue streak under their eye. Even when the fish closes its thick, heavy lips, you can still see one pair of its canine teeth. It is the largest of the nine snapper species in its range. 

Their diet includes smaller fish, prawns, crabs, and shrimp. When you hook it, prepare for a fight as it is a strong fighter. 

Where to find a Cubera Snapper?

You can find the Cubera snapper inshore across the western Atlantic from Cuba and Florida southward to Brazil. Their habitat includes swimming along reefs alone. It also lives under overhangs, ledges, and rocky outcroppings over the water. To hide from predators, the young ones remain in sheltered sea grass or mangroves. The smaller ones may also enter mangroves and estuaries along with freshwater streams and canals.

You can also find them in:

  • Coastal waters
  • Jetties and breakwaters
  • Rocky seafloor
  • Shoals, wrecks, and reef
  • Estuaries and bays
  • Channel entrances

A Cubera snapper ranges in depths from two feet to 200 feet.

How to Fish for a Cubera Snapper

It is very important to remember that this is not a light tackle fish. When hooked, it is known to speed towards rocks to keep from being hauled into the boat. You need to make sure that you use a braided line as the snapper can weight up to 80-100 pounds, but on average, it weighs around 40 pounds and up to three to four feet in length. The braided line should have a fluorocarbon leader with the same weight class.

The best time to fish for a Cubera snapper would be March, April, August, November, and December. The best month would be in July. 

For more tips on fishing and catching a Cubera snapper, visit SaltWater Sportsman.

Best Methods for Cubera Snapper Fishing

  • Bottom bouncing – this is done using a trolling or drifting boat. With this type of fishing, you need to use natural baits and bucktail jigs. These are dragged along the bottom from the boat.
  • Still fishing – this is an effective, simple way to fish that can be enjoyed by professionals and beginners. With this method, you put your bait in the water and wait for the fish to find it.
  • Drift fishing – this method requires some weight to get the bait down as the motion of the boat slowly moves the bait through the water. You can also drift fish the bait under a popping or bobber cork.
  • Saltwater jigging – if you are new to fishing, this is a very useful technique. It is also an active method that requires you to pop or snap the rod tip up quickly so the lure will mover vertically in the water. The jigs come in all shapes, colors, and sizes so you can learn with or without live fishing bait.

Can you Spear Fish a Cubera Snapper?

Yes, you can spearfish a Cubera snapper but it has to be done over a reef. When using this method, you have to make sure that you are on the pressure point of the frontal edge. Make sure you do not swim out in the current and over the reef. If you do this, you spook the Cubera snapper. To catch the fish by surprise, you can do a quick jet duck dive.

When you spear the snapper, it will fight in a circle. Make sure that you hold the spear above a structure until the snapper starts to weaken. Once it does, then you should tangle it in the kelp if possible. Next, you need to reach out and get your hands under the gills to secure it before you can land it.

Best Bait for a Cubera Snapper

The best bait to use would be a large live lobster but you can also use skipjack tuna. You can also use cut baits.  When you choose your bait, you need to consider how fish feed. Fish detect their meal in three different ways; movement, scent, and sound. Baitfishes are the small fish that are caught to attract any large predatory fish. When you get bait, no matter what type, make sure that it is kept on ice in a cooler that is well-drained. For any bait, if you will not eat it, neither will fish.

  • Cut bait – this is the next best thing to live saltwater bait. This kind can be difficult to maintain and obtain. The best bait is live bait but if you cannot get live bait, use the freshest you can find. The fish that is used for cut bait should have red gills and clear eyes. 
  • Shrimp – when using this bait, remember that different size fish will hit on the different types of shrimp
  • Squid – you can use squid to catch about any fish that lives in the open ocean or lives near the shore. It can be whole or cut squid. You should use the smallest piece of bait you can because, with the larger pieces, the fish have the opportunity to just nibble on the bait.
  • Saltwater bait – examples of saltwater bait include halfbeaks, scad, and anchovies. Lobster has worked as the best bait for most circumstances.
  • Freshwater bait – examples of this bait includes any fish of the carp or minnow family, sucker family, shad family, sunfish family, crappie, and black basses.

Best Lures and Tackle while Fishing for a Cubera Snapper

The tackle that you would use to catch a marlin will be strong enough not to break when catching the Cubera snapper. You should use iron jigs or some other large metal jigs that will work off the bottom to catch the bigger ones. When you use lures, you can use feathers, spoons, and plugs to attract it. You should use 24-ounce sinkers, 10/0 hooks, and 150-pound test leaders. 

Tips and Tactics

  • If you want to catch the big ones, when using skipjack tuna or live lobster, make sure that they have 16-ounce leads and a 150-pound leader just off the bottom. With its sharp canines and big mouth, it will swallow any crustacean that will fit in its mouth
  • They feed aggressively at night so to increase your chances of catching a big Cubera snapper, go out the four days that lead up to and after the full moon.
  • The bigger one comes for the live bait so make sure that you drop it right down to the bottom. When you are using a lure, immediately set the hook and start to reel.
  • With live bait, let it nibble on the bait but do not wait too long or they will eat their fill and go back to the rocks.

Cubera Snapper Reproduction

A female Cubera snapper will release their eggs into the sea where, within a day, they will produce larvae. Unfortunately, these larvae are also a feast for the nearby whale sharks so many do not survive to become baby Cubera snappers. They reach spawning maturity in two to four years. When the sperm and eggs are released in the water, they form a milky-white, dense cloud that reaches 40 feet in diameter. At each site, it is estimated that a half-billion eggs are released each year.

Predators of a Cubera Snapper

Humans are a big predator, or threat, to the existence of the Cubera snapper. These fish are targeted by fishermen and many times this causes overfishing. The Cubera snapper is an easy mark during their spawning aggregations. This is because they are found in large numbers, sometimes as many as 10,000, at predictable times and places. They are also prey for larger fish, including barracuda and sharks, along with moray eels. 

Fun Facts about a Cubera Snapper

  • A Cubera snapper can live to 22 years of age
  • Young Cubera snappers are never found in Louisiana
  • There are only two spawning aggregations that are known in the United States; at the southern tip of Florida off the Dry Tortugas Islands, and Key Largo. Most of them are found in the tropical waters
  • It is rare to find Cubera snappers north of Florida


Live lobster is the best bait to use for catching Cubera snapper but remember before you use it, check with the state regulations to make sure that lobsters are in season. You also need to check the size limit for using them as bait. The smaller Cubera snapper is better tasting because the larger ones could cause ciguatera poisoning. This is a type of food poisoning and can cause nausea, neurological and cardiac symptoms, and pain. The poisoning comes from the ciguatera toxin that is concentrated in fish organs. Learn more about regulations for the Cubera snapper from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. After reading this information, you will be ready to catch a Cubera snapper.

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