Yellowtail snapper is a very common species of snapper found here in the Florida Keys. It is a staple of the Marathon fishing charters I run on the reef. They feed on crabs, shrimp, worms, and smaller fish. Yellowtail spawn in groups off the edges of reefs in the Spring all the way through to the Fall but mostly during the Summer. We target yellowtail anywhere from the shallow patch reefs all the way out to 120 feet of water around reefs and Wrecks.
Using a lot of chum, light leader, and small hooks is the way we catch yellowtail here in the Keys. The Chum is ground-up menhaden fish frozen to 7-pound blocks which we put in mesh bags to slowly melt and put out small pieces of bait in the water to attract the fish. Light tackle outfits are what we use to catch yellowtail snapper.
Most fish caught range anywhere from 12 to 18 inches but it’s not unheard of to catch snapper over 18 inches. Yellowtail tend to be easily spooked and the appearance of sharks and dolphins can scare entire schools off until the threat moves out of the area. Yellowtail fishing is very fun, as the fish can put up a strong fight.
The fish is known for its flaky white meat, so it’s well worth keeping your catch, which can be easily prepared at many of the local restaurants in Marathon, FL as a ‘hook n’ cook’. For a real traditional treat, try it whole-fried!