Catching yellowtails can be an art form. The bigger they are, the smarter they become. They are shy when it comes to hook size and the type and pound test you use.
Commercial fishermen like night fishing better because they can use heavier terminal tackle and catch the bigger tails. But I fish for tails in the daytime. Experience is the secret to a successful catch, and I’d like to give you the benefit of my many years of fishing for the sometimes-very-difficult-to-catch yellowtails. In the U.S., the legal size is 12 inches to the fork and a limit of 10 yellowtails per person. In the Bahamas the vessel bag limit for scalefish is 20 pounds (head and tail must be intact and gear is restricted to no more than six rods or reels at a time). The depth of the water dictates the size of fish you will catch. Some fishermen just want to catch them any size. You can catch them in 20 feet, 40 feet or 60 feet of water on the reef. The size will usually be right around what you can keep or less. My favorite depth is 90 feet because that is where you have a chance to catch “flags.”
This is what I do. My line size is 12-pound test Fluorocarbon. My hook size depends on the current. If the current is slow, I use a #6 short shank bronze hook. (Yes, that small.) If the current is running a little faster, a #4 or #2 will be better, as the weight of the hook will be able to sink with the current. This system does not require any weight attached to the line.
The bait should be something that will not come off the hook easily. A strip of fresh ballyhoo about 1/4-inch wide to three inches long, with the hook through the skin, will allow for missing the bite but not losing the bait. This way, you won’t have to bring in to rebait every time. Feed the strip out, but never stop the line feeding out because you want the bait to sink in the current. If you stop the line feeding out, the bait will come right up to the surface.
Chum is the whole deal—no chum, no fish. Bring a case of six boxes with you, as you never know how long it will take to bring up the school of yellowtails and how much chum you’ll need to catch the amount of keeper fish you’d like. Menhaden oil is a plus. Buy a gallon and always keep it in your boat. Use it with your chum blocks. That slick is sure to drive the yellowtails crazy.
Just remember, no weight, light line, bait that sticks, very small hooks and chum like crazy, and you should experience success. Good luck and great catching.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Capt. Brian Leibowitz of Nice ‘n Easy Charters
Telephone: (954) 822-8568