The quality and abundance of great reef fishing in the Florida Keys in the winter is second to none. Yellowtail Snapper is a staple for fisherman in the Keys in the late fall and winter months. Delicious and fun for all ages to catch, Yellowtail snapper can be found in various sizes depending on what depth and location you are fishing. Large Yellowtail Snapper in the Florida Keys over 18 inches are known as “Flags”. Some say it is because of their bright yellow stripe’s resemblance to an actual flag, other says it is because of their large tails flap as if a flag would. Either way, they are fun to catch and equally tasty!
Yellowtail snapper fishing requires a bit of experience and finesse to catch. At Jeni-Lyn Fishing Charters Captain Mike Taute has 20 years of experience catching Yellowtail. He likes to use very light fluorocarbon leader because Yellowtail have great eyesight and spook easily. He is also careful to avoid putting too many lines in the water as that can also cause the fish to “back off”.
Depending on the scenario all sorts of chum can be used to catch yellowtail which can include chum blocks, fish oil, oats, live bait some even use cat food! When fishing for Yellowtail in the Florida Keys it helps to be with a Captain that knows the area. Your fishing spot is very important as it will make the difference between catching keepers, small fish or no fish at all. Captain Mike is also an expert at reading the direction and speed of the current and adjusting the position of his boat when necessary, to produce a nice chum slick behind the boat and raise the Yellowtail up off the bottom and get them in a frenzy.
Once set up and the fish are feeding comfortably it is just a matter of drifting those baits back in the slick and watching the Yellowtail come up and strike and its game on! Hooking yellowtail takes a little bit of practice but it is very fun once you get it. Captain Mike Taute likes to use light tackle to catch Yellowtail to make the fight as fun and exciting as possible. Reef fishing for Yellowtail is a fantastic trip option for younger anglers as Light tackle fishing rods are smaller and lighter making them easier to handle. Once Yellowtail Snapper start to feed and get hooked all sorts of other fish start to show up. Predators like Barracuda, Grouper and Sharks start to appear as well. After you catch a few keepers Captain Mike Taute may put a live yellowtail on a hook at the bottom which can make for some exciting opportunities at a big fish while you are catching your Yellowtail dinner. During the winter months it is not unusual to find a school of striking Mackerel around the boat and the occasional Sailfish during your reef trip which makes for some exciting live-bait casting opportunities!
Yellowtail Snapper need to be at least 12 inches to keep but usually Captain Mike looks to put you on schools that average about 14-18 inches. The great thing about Yellowtail fishing is that when Captain Mike puts you on a school of keeper Yellowtail almost all of them will be keepers! As a Captain who fishes daily, Captain Mike will know when the Flag yellow tail spots start heating up and he can take you out in deeper water to go after the bigger yellowtail that can range from 3-5 lbs sometimes bigger! Yellowtail Snapper are delicious so everyone wants to eat them including other fish. Because of this Yellowtail don’t get big by being dumb. This means when targeting Flag Yellowtail, you won’t catch as many fish because they are very smart and know how to break your line off in the rocks. You have to lift up on the fish slowly and then wind down fast to keep them off the bottom. While you may not catch as many Yellowtail targeting the big ones you get a tougher challenge and you get bigger fillets, which means more meat per fish. Yellowtail is wonderful to eat fried, baked or “francaise”. When you get back from your trip Captain Mike will be happy to Fillet and bag your fish which you can take home or bring to most restaurants on the island for a tasty meal. Book your reef fishing experience with Captain Mike Taute with Jeni-Lyn fishing Charters.