Published On: January 12th, 2019Last Updated: March 24th, 20223.7 min read

Yellowtail Snapper Fishing in the Florida Keys

During the winter months, the Main Attraction gets a lot of requests for reef charters in search of delicious yellowtail Snapper.

Yellowtail Snapper is a fish available on the reef year-round but primarily targeted in the cooler months of the fall and winter.

Kids love to catch Yellowtail Snapper as we use smaller light tackle rods and reels for these typically 12-16-inch-long fish, giving them a good fight without overwhelming them. These smaller-sized Yellowtails are often available on the reef, a mere 15-minute ride out from the dock, making it an excellent choice for a family outing to maximize fishing time and keep the young ones interested.

When the timing is right, sometimes our Captains will hit the deeper water to catch large Yellowtail over 20 inches long called “Flags,” which can be much more challenging to fight and yield larger fillets.

This article will give you a quick rundown on how we approach Yellowtail fishing in the Florida Keys. If you are looking for a more in-depth guide, feel free to visit our “Secret” to Successful Yellowtail Fishing Article.

When you set off on your reef charter, you head out a few miles from shore, and once the boat is anchored, the first mate throws out the chum bags with the chum inside, one on each side of the boat (for the larger vessels). Each vessel will wait a good 10-15 minutes to let the chum settle into the water and get the fish comfortable before they even put a line in the water. Some clients find it odd that we don’t immediately put a line in the water once anchored, but the fisherman who fish 300+ days a year knows the importance of keeping the fish comfortable, so they continue to bite well.

FL Keys Yellowtail

Mr. Schremp with a beautiful Yellowtail caught aboard the Main One.

On a clear, calm day, yellowtail fishing can be challenging. The fish are rather clever and can see the line due to the water clarity, which often spooks the fish. On conditions like this, we have to start fishing one line at a time, using a clear 12-15 pound fluorocarbon leader.

Ideally, the current will be traveling in the same direction of the wind for the best chum slick. When we anchor the boat, it will swing to face the wind, and since we fish off the back of the boat, we need the chum slick to travel behind the boat. It is much harder to catch Yellowtail when they feed under or in front of the boat.

When the water clarity is cloudy or the fish are comfortable and feeding aggressively, we can fish multiple lines.

There are different techniques to catching Yellowtail. First, don’t be stingy with the chum. Next, you can use a small filet of ballyhoo, shrimp, or cut bait to put on your hook. If you are fishing in shallower water, you can often get away with a naked filet.

But if you are fishing in deeper water, surround your filet with an oat ball. The oat ball consists of a bit of saltwater and rolled oats to make the oat ball sticky. If the fish come up to the surface in a feeding frenzy you can even catch Yellowtail on small live baits, which is a lot of fun!

Once you get back to the Dock, your captain will filet your catch and bag it for you to bring to a local restaurant for cooking or bring home with you to cook for yourself. There are many great ways to prepare Yellowtail, but we recommend our Yellowtail Piccata Recipe!

Does it matter if you book a morning or afternoon reef charter? It all comes down to the fish and the weather conditions. We have been just as successful in the morning as we have in the afternoon. If you want to experience the fun and excitement of a Yellowtail reef trip, call the Main Attraction at 305 289-0071 or visit our contact page!

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