Published On: January 12th, 2019Last Updated: April 12th, 20213.6 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 delicious fish that is available on the reef year-round but primarily targeted in the cooler months of the fall and winter. Kids absolutely 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 Yellowtail are available on the reef a mere 15-minute ride out from the dock making it a great 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.

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 know that the secret is to get and keep the fish comfortable so they continue to bite well.

On a clear calm day, yellowtail fishing can be tough at times. The fish are rather smart and can see the line due to the water clarity which often spooks the fish. On conditions like this, we have to start off fishing one line at a time, using very 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 more difficult to catch Yellowtail if they are feeding under or in front of the boat.

When the water clarity is cloudy or the fish are comfortable and feeding aggressively, multiple lines can be fished. 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 little saltwater and rolled oats, to make the oat ball “sticky”. If they 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 to 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!

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