Species of Snook

Types of Snook

species of snook
From top to bottom: common snook, tarpon snook, swordspine snook, and fat snook.
Common Snook

Common snook have a more slender body and 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. Common snook on the Atlantic coast of Florida commonly grow to larger sizes than common snook on the gulf coast of Florida.

Tarpon Snook

As the name implies, this fish looks somewhat like a tarpon. The body is very thin laterally like a tarpon, but most noteworthy is the long head and upturned jaw. Thoughts are the two probably share feeding habits, keying on prey swimming overhead, and so over time their bodies evolved similarly.

A tarpon snook’s eyes are much bigger than those of other snooks; it may be that the species relies on sight more so than its cousins. These tarpon snook seem to feed mostly at nighttime.

One of the key differences among snook species is the size of their scales. The anal fin is another key characteristic. Common, fat, and swordspine snook all have one large hard spike followed by six soft rays. The tarpon snook is the only snook that has seven soft rays on the anal fin, not counting the first hard spike. The spike is always shorter than the longest soft ray.

Lastly, the tarpon snook is the only snook that has dark tips on the ends of the anal, ventral and pectoral fins. But, these dark tips fade with age, so don’t assume it is not a tarpon snook if it doesn’t have dark tips on the fins.

Tarpon snook also do not get very big, usually maxing out at about three pounds.

Fat Snook

This is perhaps the most difficult snook to identify because its anal fin goes through a change and juveniles look different from adults.

As the name implies, these snook are just plain fat. They are the second largest snook and closely resemble a football but don’t be fooled: tarpon and swordspine snook also have proportionately larger bodies than common snook, so be sure to check for other characteristics.

World record for the species is around 10 pounds. Unlike the tarpon snook and swordspine snook, it is possible to catch a fat snook exceeding Florida’s minimum legal size for retention of snook, 28 inches. Fat snook are often found at spillways when large amounts of fresh water is pouring over them.

Swordspine Snook

These guys usually do not exceed one pound and are so rare that a catch is something to really be proud of. The name comes from the large spike on the anal fin. This is the only snook that the anal spike is so long that it can actually touch the tail fin. These are usually not caught in open water and prefer mangroves or docks