Redfish vs Red Snapper: A Definitive Guide for Anglers

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

redfish vs red snapper

There’s so much confusion about redfish vs red snapper in the fishing and culinary world. Many anglers and seafood lovers might even get confused about the type of fish they have caught or eaten.

The red snapper and redfish are popular game fish on most North American coasts. They’re easy to distinguish, but not everyone knows what sets each species apart.

Generally, redfish resemble a reddish-brown color with pronged tails. Red snappers, on the other hand, have a rich red color and sharp heads and tails.

For that reason, this comprehensive guide will differentiate these two popular species.

Get To Know the Redfish (Red Drum)


Have you ever tried to eat the delicious meat of a redfish? For many years, redfish have been a favorite cuisine for seafood enthusiasts and a favored target for anglers. For a good reason, the fish has a crusty texture and mild taste, making it perfect for palates that don’t like strong-flavored fish.

Also called red drum and spot-tail bass, redfish live in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You can also find them on most North American coasts, including Texas. That’s why there’s a special variety called Texas redfish.

Redfish can be shallow or bottom-dwellers that prefer to be near rocky reefs or coral beds. They have sharp teeth that allow them to eat small crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, and mullets. Additionally, they use their mouths to dig into sand and mud to find food buried beneath it.

Get To Know the Red Snapper (Northern Red Snapper)


Scientifically called Lutjanus campechanus, the red snapper is native to the coasts of North and Central America. Additionally, this type of fish has massive schools in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Younger red snappers love to wander and stay in shallow areas of the ocean, feeding on crustaceans and smaller fish. However, grown-up red snappers tend to go deep into the sea. They like to settle on underwater structures and oil rigs on the bottom of the ocean.

Red snappers have several varieties, such as the gulf coast red snapper. They can grow over 39 inches long and live up to 50 years. However, most red snappers for commercial purposes are smaller.

Many anglers favor red snappers due to their unique flavor — their flesh is slightly sweeter and nutty. When prepared as table fare, the fish can complement hot chilies and herbs equally well.

Similarities Between Redfish and Red Snapper

While redfish and red snapper are two distinct fish, they share some similarities. For example:

Flavorful, healthy delicacy


Both species are sought-after culinary dishes. Both fish have delectable tastes, but the red snapper is often considered a more premium fish due to its higher market price and more delicate flavor. Also, fish are a good source of proteins and other healthy vitamins and minerals.

Carnivorous appetite

These fish are both carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Their diets may overlap in some areas, but red snapper tends to feed on more diverse prey due to its larger size and wider distribution.

Red Drum Vs Red Snapper: Significant Differences

Now, let’s look at the notable differences between redfish and red snapper. These will help you understand and determine each fish quickly.

1. Biology


Typically, red snappers are moderate-growing fish, reaching up to 40 inches in length and a weight of 50 pounds. Most females can reproduce at the age of 2, spawning in May through October.

Conversely, a fully grown redfish can grow and exceed 27 to 36 inches in length and thrive up to 30 years. Unlike snappers, redfish grow fast, reaching adulthood in as little as 4 years.

2. Habitat


Redfish are commonly found in muddy and sandy coastal waters, estuaries, and bays. Snappers, on the other hand, inhabit deeper areas of the sea, typically around wrecks, reefs, ledges, rocks, and oil rigs.

3. Taste comparison

Generally, snappers are one of the finest seafood cuisines due to their sweet and fragrant flavor and extra nuttiness. Redfish can be similar, but their taste is lighter than red snappers.

4. Red Hue


The color is the most remarkable difference between these two fish species. Both species have reddish highlights. However, red snapper tends to have a more vibrant red hue, while redfish is often more of a copper or bronze color.

5. Mouth shape


You can easily tell a redfish from a snapper by seeing its mouth. The upper lip of a redfish is more prominent, while a snapper has a more protruding lower lip.

How to Identify a Redfish and Red Snapper


Typically, it’s a breeze to distinguish each species through its color, dorsal fin, and body shape. By focusing on the following distinguishing features, you can name each fish with relative ease:

  • Color: Redfish have a copper or golden coloration, with a lighter belly. Red snappers have a more vibrant red hue, with the intensity of the color fading towards their belly. Their fins are often tinged with red as well.
  • Dorsal fin: The dorsal fin in redfish is more prominent and has a distinct notch between the spiny and soft-rayed portions. Red snapper has a continuous, spiny dorsal fin. It lacks the distinct notch seen in redfish.
  • Body shape: Red snappers have laterally compressed, oval-shaped bodies compared to the redfish’s more elongated, cylindrical body.
  • Black spot: One of the most distinctive features of redfish is the presence of a black spot near the base of their tail. This spot can be single or multiple. Red snappers don’t have this distinguishing feature.

Where and When to Find Redfish and Red Snappers

Are you wondering where to fish for red snapper and redfish? If you want to go fishing for red snappers, you can head to the subtropical waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The offshores of North and Central America have red snappers, too.


Living in warm, shallow coastal waters, redfish inhabit a diverse range of waterways — from the Atlantic coasts to the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, they’re also common in most southern coastal areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the straits of Florida to Massachusetts.


The best time to go angling for these species is during the end of summer through fall, including spring. These seasons have moderate temperatures that are perfect for the fish to wander and look for food.

When the weather is extremely hot, they’ll find shelter in jetties or rocks to escape the heat. In winter, these fish will also seek out creeks, lagoons, marshes, and shallow flats with warmer, muddy bottoms.

A good recipe for casting redfish includes artificial lures and slow-moving cut baits, especially in marshy and estuary locations. Meanwhile, red snappers are opportunistic feeders. They’re fond of feasting on mullets, squids, crabs, shrimps, and other natural prey. Hence, it’s best to use natural-moving or dead baits.

For angling techniques, you can leverage trolling, drifting, and bottom bouncing. If you want to catch larger ones, we recommend fishing farther offshore.

Red Snapper Vs Redfish Nutritional Value: Which is Better?


It’s worth noting that these fish are well-known and flavorful options for seafood lovers. Incorporating either into your diet can contribute to a balanced and healthy meal plan.

However, depending on your nutritional needs, eating a specific type of fish can be more beneficial than another. Here’s a direct comparison of their nutritional values:

Redfish Red Snapper
Calcium 18mg per 3-ounce serving 34mg per 3-ounce serving
Calories 78kcal 109kcal
Magnesium 26mg 31mg
Protein 15.9g 22g
Sodium 69g 48mg
Phosphorous 113mg 171mg
Pottasium 275mg 444mg
Saturated fat .6g 0.3g
Monounsaturated fat .7g 0.3g
Polyunsaturated fat 1.11g 0.5g
Folate .008mg .005mg
Vit B12 .003mg .003mg
Vit C .9mg 1mg
Cholesterol 40mg 40mg

Frequently Asked Questions

Is redfish healthy?

Yes. Eating redfish is considered healthy if you eat it in moderation. On average, it’s advisable to consume redfish at least 3 to 4 times a week. However, childbearing people and children below 15 years old are advised to eat a minimum of two servings a week.

Is redfish the same as a red drum?

Yes. Red drum is another name for redfish, alongside channel bass, and spot-tail bass. The fish is a member of the drum family, popular among the fishing community.

Summing It Up

It’s common for anglers to debate about redfish vs red snapper. Some say that these types of fish are similar, while some argue that they’re two separate entities.

To make it clear, redfish and red snappers share a few things in common. However, they’re two different fish species that anglers can catch. They have distinct features and characteristics that set them apart from each other.

Finally, going on a fishing adventure isn’t about which fish is better, but rather the experience. No matter your target species, catching fish can be a fun and rewarding pursuit!

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