Catching Mutton Snapper

By: Capt. Bruce Andersen

Spring is here and it’s a great time to do some bottom fishing! One of my favorite and in my opinion most exciting fish to target on the bottom here in the Florida Keys is the mutton snapper. They are a beautiful, colorful, great eating fish that can be found in a wide range of depths and targeted with several different fishing techniques.
Mutton snapper can be found in the Keys any time of year and they’re open to harvest all year round. A lot of anglers like to concentrate on these fish during their annual spawn in June, and I do too, but my favorite time of year to catch muttons is now, springtime. The fishing is usually very consistent in March, and I have found that I usually catch a higher percentage of large muttons during this time.
Mutton snapper are a unique fish in that they can be found everywhere from very shallow patch reefs, sometimes even around bridges out to the reef and beyond, and on wrecks as deep as 300 feet of water. I like fishing for them a number of different ways, but my favorite way to consistently catch mutton snapper on our fishing charters is by drifting live baits around wrecks in the 120-to-250-foot range.  These fish are very smart. They can be line shy and wary, so I like to use fairly long fluorocarbon leaders in the 30 pound test range and small light wire hooks to entice a bite. Many types of live bait will work, some of my favorites include live ballyhoo, cigar minnows, pilchards, and pinfish.
Once you hook up, you’ll have to hold on. These fish are great fighters and will try to break you off in the wreck. You’ll want to try and apply as much pressure as you can without breaking him off. Once you get his head turned and have the fish coming try to stay on it and keep the momentum in your favor so that you can get them up fast before the shark gets him! Usually, the higher up in the water column you get, the less the fish will fight and faster you can get them. Their air bladder will usually expand towards the end, making the last third of the fight fairly easy. Usually when the fish comes into view it will already be starting to float to the top and there’s nothing like the sight of a huge mutton snapper floating to the surface behind the boat while you unclip your lead to bring him the rest of the way in.
If you want to get out and try to experience the thrill of catching a mutton snapper, give me a call and let’s get out there! It’s one of my favorite types of fishing to do and one of the best times of year to do it!

You can reach Captain Bruce Andersen at Capt. Easy Charters,
MM 85, call 305.360.2120 or email at: