Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yellowtail Fishing Techniques

Fishing for yellowtail snapper on the reef is probably the most popular type of fishing in the Florida Keys. They are good eating, generally easy to catch and you never know what else will show up to make things exciting.

While fishing for 'tails I have caught Grouper, Mutton Snapper, King Mackerel, Cero Mackerel, Hogfish, Dolphin, Cobia, Sailfish, Tuna, Amberjack, Wahoo and even had a shot at a 200 plus pound Yellowfin Tuna. So don't underestimate the potential of a little Yellowtail fishing trip.

The by-catch pictured above are common though the size of the Amberjack is a bit bigger than average. The 75 pound Amberjack for example ate a twenty inch 'tail right behind the boat and was landed on a twenty pound yellowtail rod with a size 2 yellowtail hook. Hogfish are mainly caught with shrimp on the bottom in sand patches around heads.

There is a good post on the Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum here. This link is broken due to changes at FSFF. I will try to fix it asap. Later today I will start picking out some of the more interesting points and compare them with my post on Yellowtail fishing. So stay tuned.

ETA. Bait size depends on the conditions. Slower currents with clear water generally means smaller baits, but I will mix it up a bit to see what they want. I generally start with 3/4" strips or whole Silverside minnows. When I have small Pichard sardines alive or dead I will try them whole from time to time. This is mainly to pick up muttons or big Mangroves, but flag Yellowtails like them too. If there are a lot of mackerel in the area smaller baits help reduce mackerel cut offs

Flourocarbon leaders is never a bad thing. A whole reel spooled with Flourocarbon tends to not be that good. I don't know why, but Flouro tends to be prone to nicks at least when freeline fishing for 'tails. I don't start with the long Flouro leader. Three feet is plenty unless you are fishing trained fish. I like dumb fish because they make me look smarter and reduce rigging. Still you have to be ready to adjust to the bite.

Heavy chumming to start and putting around the area chumming before anchoring are good ideas. To make it easier I leave a box or two of chum out of the cooler to partially thaw on the way out. The big mesh bag is a must in deeper water and a good idea any time. A smaller mesh bag can work just fine in shallower water at a trained spot. I do tend to use less chum than most unless I am targeting flag 'tails. By targeting 17" to 20" average 'tails you can use less chum and still have a fine catch.

The soaked rolled oats trick can work wonders. It can be a bit messy so I avoid it and sand balling whenever I can. To do that I will often fish coral heads that have had less pressure so the fish are not trained. The bite starts slower, but you have better odds of picking up Grouper, big Muttons and Mangs. I always have a few trained spots in case I need a plan b.

Fishing a faster current I will use a swivel at times to add weight and reduce line twist. In a faster current getting the fish close to the boat takes a lot more chum and time. The swivel trick sometimes lets you start catching fish faster. Varying hook sizes can also help adjust your sink rate for the current. Finding the right combination of hook, jig head, weight, drift rate and bait size is key to filling the box. So don't be afraid to experiment.

Drift rate that keeps the bait in the chum cloud is what you want 90% of the time. The other 10% is when you have a mix of small and larger 'tails. Starting your drift before making the chum cloud will sometime help get the bait past the hoard of small fish that inhale the chum.

Training fish really means fishing the same spot all the time. While it would seem that fishing the same spot all the time would fish it out, that is not the case with the yellowtails. Fishing a trained area will reduce your chances for keeper grouper and muttons that tend to be more territorial. Trained areas also mean predators can be a problem. Here is the link to my older Yellowtail post. I will update that soon to mention the Gulf regulation changes that apply more out of the Key West area than here in Marathon.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

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