Juvenile common snook are generally restricted to the protection of riverine and estuary environments. These environments offer shallow water and an overhanging vegetative shoreline. Juvenile common snook can survive in waters with lower oxygen levels than adults. Adult common snook inhabit many environments including mangrove forests, beaches, river mouths, nearshore reefs, salt marshes and sea grass meadows. Adult common snook appear to be less sensitive to cold water temperatures than larvae or small juveniles. The lower lethal limit of water temperature is 48.2°-57.2° F (9°-14° C) for juveniles and 42.8°-53.6° F (6°-12° C) for adults.
Common snook are the most widely distributed species within the Centropomus genus and have been reported as far north as New York (USA) and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Common snook are abundant along the Atlantic coast of Florida from Cape Canaveral south through the Keys and Dry Tortugas, and north to Cedar Key on the gulf coast. Common snook occur infrequently along the coast of Texas to Galveston and then more or less continuously south to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Common snook have a slender body and a distinct lateral line. The dorsal fins are high and divided and the anal spines are relatively short. The common snook has a sloping forehead with a large mouth and a protruding lower jaw. Adult common snook can grow to over 48 inches in total length , which is larger than any other species in this family.
Size, Age & Growth
Common snook on the Atlantic coast of Florida commonly grow to larger sizes than common snook on the gulf coast of Florida. The world record for a common snook caught on hook and line is a 53-pound 10-ounce (24.28 kg) in Parismina Ranch, Costa Rica.
Theoretical longevity estimates from age and growth studies suggest that common snook can live to about twenty years old. On the Atlantic coast, the oldest sampled common snook was an eighteen-year-old female and the oldest male was fifteen. On the gulf coast, the oldest common snook sampled was a fifteen year old female and the oldest male was twelve.
Common snook are protandric hermaphrodites, changing from male to female after maturation. This transition is identified by the presence of both male and female sex cells in the gonads and takes place when they grow to between 9.4-24 inches (24.0-82.4 cm) fork length which corresponds to 1-7 years of age. A study conducted in 2000, indicated that the sex ratios for common snook ages 0 – 2 are significantly skewed between the east and west coasts of Florida (USA) due to protrandry and differences in growth and mortality rates. The majority of small common snook are male and most large snook are female. Males reach sexual maturity during their first year at 5.9-7.9 inches (15.0-20.0 cm) fork length. Research shows that female gonads mature directly from the mature male gonads shortly after spawning. The probability that a common snook of a particular size will be a female increases with length or age.
- There are five different species of snook that inhabit Florida waters: common snook, small-scale fat snook, large-scale fat snook, swordspine snook, and tarpon snook.
- Snook are also known as robalo, linesiders, and sergeant fish. In the past they were known as “soapfish” when some sections of the “soapy” tasting skin were left on the fillets due to poor cleaning practices.
- Snook can tolerate a wide range of salinity and may be found in fresh water. However, they are extremely sensitive to temperature and a strong, fast moving cold front through an area containing snook may claim many lives due to the rapid drop in water temperature.
- Snook are protandric hermaphrodites and change sex from male to female. The actual cause of the change is not known, but current research may provide an answer.
- Snook are known as “ambush feeders” meaning that they’ll surprise attack their prey as it swims or moves into range. This occurs especially at the mouths of inlets where currents play a role while the snook waits in hiding behind bridge pilings, rocks, or other submerged structures.