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The term "snook fish" encompasses about eight species of fish, five of which — the common, the small and large-scale fat, the tarpon, and the swordspine — are found around Florida. These fish are also found around southwest Texas, Central America and South America. The blackfin snook is common in Mexico. All species of snookfish belong to the centropomus genus.
Also called a robalo, a snook fish usually is silvery or golden with a dark line running down the length of its body. Snook fish have two dorsal fins and a projecting lower jaw. These are pike-like fish, which is evident from their name — "snook" is from the Dutch word snoek, which means "pike."
Snook fish are often found around mangroves and inlets and in both freshwater and, more commonly, saltwater. Young fish frequently stay in lower-salinity areas until they mature and then move into areas with higher salinity. The snook normally migrates only small distances to spawn in the summer. As a tropical fish however, it cannot handle temperatures below about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius), so it might migrate to its spawning area if its wintering location is too cold.
The snook fish spawns in coastal rivers and major ocean inlets. The spawning season starts around April or May and ends around August or September, depending on that year's climate. Females spawn every two days and lay more than a million eggs each time. If there are no females available in an area, males can reverse their sex to change into females.
Female snook fish live longer than males, about 21 years compared to the males' 15. Females also reach maturity later. Males reach maturity after about two years and females after about five.
The size of these fish vary depending on species. For example, in the largest of the Florida species, which is the common, females reach about 48 inches (122 cm) on average, and males reach 39 inches (99 cm). The common snook can weigh 5-8 pounds (2.3 to 3.6 kg) but can occasionally reach a weight of 44 pounds (20 kg). Conversely, the smallest Florida species, the swordspine, is usually less than 12 inches (30.5 cm) and weighs about a pound (0.45 kg).
Snook fish cannot be commercially fished, but they are extremely popular for recreational fishers. These fish are prized not only for their flesh but also because they fight when caught. Catching one is considered a challenge, and a fisherman who does gains prestige.
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