Let’s catch some yellowtail snapper!

By: Capt. Bruce Andersen

May is a great time for fishing in the keys. The mahi mahi bite is getting really good, grouper season is open, and the tarpon fishing is red hot. One thing that you shouldn’t overlook this time of year is the awesome yellowtail snapper fishing available on the reef. Yellowtail can be caught year round in the keys, but late spring and early summer have some of the best yellowtailing you’ll find. We’re lucky to have these fish, they’re great eating, readily available, and fun to catch, especially on light tackle.
There are a lot of ways to catch yellowtail. The most common and one of the most productive is to anchor on the reef in depths of anywhere from 40 to 90 feet. While everybody has their favorite spots just about any reef will hold yellowtail and it shouldn’t take long to find them. You’ll want to deploy a chum bag, and also chum with a mixture of oats, sand, and chum. You can scatter that mixture behind the boat and drift your bait back in a cloud of the chum mixture into the current, or make balls similar to snowballs out of the oat mix. Placing your hooked bait in the middle of the ball and letting that sink behind the boat. Most people like to use 12 pound spinning tackle. I like to add a short piece of 15 pound fluorocarbon leader to the end of my rig. Usually either a #2 j hook or a small 1/32 ounce jig head will do the trick to finish it off.
Conditions like current and water color play a big part in determining how the fishing is going to be. If you’ve got dusty colored water and a moderate current going behind the boat it should be game on. If the current is trickling up under the anchor line and the water is crystal clear you might want to consider a different type of fishing that day.
One of my favorite things to do on my charters aboard the Captain Easy is to chum with live pilchards in addition to the oats and chum. Once again, you’ll need current and you’ll need the pilchards to be available as it usually takes a couple hundred of them to get the fish fired up and busting on the surface. When everything comes together this is the most exciting way to catch yellowtail snapper and also a great way to target the big ones. Of course, while all this is going on, it’s always good to keep a bottom rod going for the chance of a grouper or mutton snapper and don’t forget to flip a live bait out every now and then to make sure there aren’t any king fish or cero mackerel around.
We’re really lucky to have this great fishery available in the keys. If you want to see what it’s all about, give me a call and I’ll take you out and show you first hand. Hope to see you all soon!

— www.captaineasycharters.com
You can reach Captain Bruce Andersen at Capt. Easy Charters,
MM 85, call 305.360.2120 or email at: captbrucekey@comcast.net