Close this search box.

Are Cubera Snapper Safe to Eat? Vital Information

Cubera Snapper are solitary fish that frequent the reefs. These snappers are easily discernible by their almond shape that averages 3 feet. At most, they will grow to 5 feet in length. If you’ve ever tried fishing for them, you’ve probably also considered keeping them. But are Cubera Snapper good to eat?

The short answer is yes, Cubera Snapper is a delicious fish to eat. It offers sweet, white meat that is similar in taste to the pink snapper, mutton snapper, or Tripletail. 

The primary difference between these two fish is that the Cubera Snapper grows bigger than the Pink Snapper, and because of this difference in size, the meat of the Cubera is tougher. 

Let’s learn more about why Cubera Snapper are good to eat and other Cubera Snapper facts.

Cubera Snapper: Common Names

There are several names for this species, and so if you haven’t heard it as Cubera Snapper, then you might have heard it by any of the following names:

  • Cuban Snapper
  • Caranho (in Portugal)
  • Vivaneau Cubéra
  • Pargo, Pargo Cubera, or Pargo Cabello
  • Gray Snapper
  • Caranha

Cubera Snapper Coloring

A Cubera snapper

Their coloring ranges from dark brown to grey and have one long dorsal fin, long pectoral fins, and a long tail (also known as a caudal peduncle). The fish itself is slender, and they have the same teeth that can be expected from a snapper. The teeth are long, and they resemble a canine’s teeth that show even from shut mouths. 

Author Note: Cubera Snappers are a favorite amongst fishermen, especially during the spawning season. The Cubera Snappers are vulnerable during their spawning season, especially because they are so popular. 

The Cubera Snapper is a favorite amongst sports fishermen as well as those fishing for food. However, caution should be taken since there are some reports of ciguatera poisonings. 

What is Ciguatera Poisoning?

Ciguatera poisoning is a result of dead algae present on dead corals. The most common dead algae are dinoflagellates. Some fish species eat these algae, including the Cubera Snapper. These algae have toxins that build up in a fish’s liver and, once a human eats a fish with these toxins, it can be poisonous.

Snappers tend to be regular eaters of this algae, and when eaten, it becomes poisonous. The symptoms last for years, which manifests in the form of gastrointestinal issues. Other symptoms include weakness in the limbs, but if this sends panic into your heart, do not worry.

There are only a few cases of this poisoning. However, it is advised that you take caution when consuming Cubera Snapper and other large predatory fish found in the tropics. 

Conservation of the Cubera Snapper

The International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)  deems this snapper a  vulnerable species. This particular type of snapper is particularly vulnerable during the spawning season because of overfishing. The areas that see the most activity are the Caribbean Sea and off the Floridian coast. 

What is the IUCN?

The IUCN is the  International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and is a global union of states, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations. These organizations have all formed a partnership between them to maintain the conservation of species. 

Where Can You Find Cubera Snapper?

cubera snapper at the deep waters

Anglers can enjoy a large range for this particular snapper. Anglers can find the Cubera snapper from as far south as Brazil all the way to Massachusetts. The Cubera Snapper prefers tropical water and is not often found in the Mexican Gulf and Florida’s northern areas. 

Cubera Snapper Habitat

Cubera Snappers are the lone wolves of the reef. You can often find them close to the shore, especially by overhangs or ledges. Although they like to swim close to the shore, they make their home as far down as 55 meters (or 175 feet). Juvenile cubera snapper will frequent areas that can offer them protection.

These are typically seagrass beds and inshore mangroves. Juveniles will often travel into estuaries and freshwater canals. 

Cubera Snapper Biology

Physical Distinctive Features

The cubera snapper is one of the more elegant looking of the snapper family. This is because of their elongated body. In fact, everything about this fish can be described as “long,” including their dorsal fin. There is one exception, however. The caudal fin is more stumped than the other fins on this slender fish. The cubera even has elongated teeth that protrude out of its mouth- even when its thick lips are closed!

Author Note: Do not make the mistake of confusing the cubera with the gray snapper, as many people often do. There is one clarifying distinctive feature to identify the two species from one another.

When you have hooked a snapper and are trying to decide whether it is a gray or a cubera, check out the vomerine teeth. This is a patch at the top of the palate. If you’ve hooked a gray, then the tooth patch will resemble the shape of an anchor. If you have hooked a snapper, then you’ll likely be staring at a patch in the shape of a triangle. 

Cubera Snapper Coloration

The Cubera Snapper’s body will vary from dark brown to gray. The sides will either be a dark gray shade or very pale. You might even notice a rusty red tinge, as some cubera’s do have this red tint on their bodies. All cubera snappers have a touch of blue shimmer on the ventral fins as well as the anus fin.

As for the caudal fin, you can expect a light gray fin with the pectoral fins so pale that they are almost translucent. A younger cubera will have a barred marking on their sides, a tell-tale sign you have a juvenile in your hands. 

As we have mentioned, the cubera has thick lips that line large jaws. They are predatory fish that is obvious just by looking at their large canine teeth that stick out even with their enormous mouths closed. 

How Big Do Cubera Snapper Get?

The average weight of a mature cubera snapper is around 40 pounds or 18 kgs. They can grow to lengths of 5 ft, but the average mature cubera will only reach 3 ft. The heaviest cubera snappers weigh in at around 125 pounds. These stats make the cubera snapper the largest species of snapper in the Atlantic ocean. 

Food Habits

The cubera snapper is a famously ferocious fighter. It will aggressively hunt crabs and smaller fishes. More mature cuberas, with their fully grown canines, will target lobsters and large crabs. The cubera makes a rocky reef their hunting ground, creating feeding gourds by rocky structures and reefs. 


The cubera snapper is classified as an oviparous breeder, releasing its eggs into the sea. June, July and August are the spawning months, and the Caribbean sea will likely see most of the spawning action. Interested enthusiasts should head out into the deep water to witness a plethora of cuberas congregating for their spawning season.

After the cubera releases these pelagic eggs into the offshore deep water, the eggs will typically hatch within 24 hours. The pelagic larvae escape from the egg, only to be carried away by the currents. 

Do Cubera Snapper Have Predators?

A Cubera snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus) on a reef off the coast of Bonaire.

The cubera snapper may be a ferocious hunter itself, but it isn’t without its fair share of predators. Mako sharks in Central America (Belize in particular) will gobble up the cubera with their gigantic mouths.

But the Mako shark isn’t the only predator to make a meal out of the cubera. Other sharks, large moray eels, grouper, barracuda, and even other snappers will gladly turn the slender cubera into a nutritious meal. 

And on the topic of nutritious meals, here’s an easy way to prepare cubera snapper:

Cooking Cubera Snapper

The cubera snapper is one of the best fish to catch and eat. It has sweet meat that is not dissimilar to the Red Snapper. The meat is sweet in taste, but not unbearably so. The red snapper is usually smaller in size than the red snapper and, because they are larger, their meat is a bit tougher. 

Author Note: When preparing the cubera snapper, simply fillet the fish and prepare a delicious batter before frying. Add in some of your favorite herbs, spices, or even create a tasty salsa to accompany it. 

Cubera Snapper Recipe

When filleting the cubera snapper, leave the scales and the skin intact. If you want to forgo the batter, simply place the fillets on a grill with their skin facing the bottom. Rub the top side with butter, pepper, and a pinch of salt. This is the easiest way to prepare the cubera and, by keeping it simple, you get to taste the authentic taste of the cubera. 

If you want to do something a little more complicated to complement the cubera, then a baste will be ideal. Create a baste using a blend of fresh lime (or lemon if you prefer), onions, salt, pepper, and any herbs you prefer to use for your fish. The fish should be covered and left to cook on low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.

But don’t make the mistake of leaving them unattended for that time. It is best to baste the fillets while they cook, do this several times and remember to place the lid back afterward. Don’t panic if you see the skin look a little charred. A blackened skin is exactly what you want and acts as a holder for the basting. 

Don’t rush your fillets but don’t let them overcook, either. The thicker fillets will be ready closer to the 25-minute mark, while the smaller ones should be done in 20 minutes. Don’t forget to baste them several times throughout the cooking time!

If you want to spice things up, you can add some garlic and peppers to your basting mixture.

Once it is ready, sprinkle some spicy seasoning on the top and serve with lemon wedges. 


Cubera Snapper can grow to large sizes and are a fun fish to catch if you use the right lures. We hope you enjoyed this article on whether or not Cubera Snapper are good to eat. If you want to catch your own Cubera Snapper, check our guide for the best Cubera Snapper lures. And if you like eating snapper, check out our post on how good Mangrove Snapper is to eat.

Happy Hunting!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts