A school of Yellowtail Snapper. Some of the other fish we catch in the Florida Keys areTuna, Wahoo, Blue & White Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Sharks, Kingfish, Mutton Snapper, King Mackerel, Grouper, Cobia, Tarpon and more.

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How-To Series


Brought to you courtesy of Captain Ron Brack, Captain of the Charterboat "REEL PLEASURE" out of the Whale Harbor Marina in Islamorada.

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Snapper Fishing

Lane Snapper: Lane Snapper are primarily a summer fish; they live along the reef line. Anywhere from the shallow patches out to 200 feet of water. They typically are a smaller fish and not targeted as much as many of the other snapper. But, they are very good eating! So break out your light tackle. They bite on the bottom best and are not big fans of chum. Keep your hooks small #2 up to 4.0. They like shrimp, cut ballyhoo, and squid. Laneís bite fast and shake the bait so be ready to set the hook with quick jerk of the rod.

School Masters: School Masters are also reef-line snapper but they also love shallow wrecks and can be found in canals and mangroves as well. Their habits are much like the mangrove snapper. They spawn in late summer and early fall. They love chum, and are aggressive eaters. School Masters are excellent fighters and can be caught on shrimp, cut ballyhoo, and cut mullet. They will also eat jigs. For the most fun, keep your tackle light.

Vermillion Snapper: Vermilion Snapper are a deeper dwelling fish. They can be caught from 140 foot out to 500 feet of water. They get up to about 6 pounds, and are terrific eating. Verms are not toothy like most snappers, although they are pretty aggressive biters! They spawn in the winter, usually on natural bottom terrain. Thatís when the bigger ones can be caught. They stack up in large numbers and can be found along with other species of fish. Verms prefer cut bait like squid, ballyhoo, Bonita, barracuda. It is hard to fish them with light tackle due to the depth they reside in.

Yellow-eye Snapper: Yellow-eye Snapper are also deep dwellers and can be found from 170 foot out to 700 feet of water. Typically smaller fish live in the shallower water, but the large schools reside in 300 foot to 500 feet of water. They are premo eating and get up to about 10 pounds. Yellow-eyes are aggressive eaters and good fighters. You can catch them best on chicken rigs with circle hooks. Best baits are cut Bonita and squid but they will also eat barracuda and ballyhoo. They usually show up well on a good fishfinder. Pull up-stream of them and drift through the school, bouncing your sinker rig along the bottom, and hang on!

Mangrove Snapper: Mangroves remind me of all the tough things I have encountered in my life. Mangroves live almost anywhere from brackish water out to 200 feet of water. They school from small numbers to thousands. When they spawn in late summer, early fall they can be found on deep patches and reef line in large numbers. They are usually hungry but can be caught best at night. Nighttime is when you catch the bigger ones. For best success keep your tackle under 30 pound test. Hook sizes from #2 up to 4/0. The smaller hooks might get a better bite although you loose more hooks due to swallowing, and you donít want to stick your fingers in a mangroveís mouth! Take my word for it. A long shank hook is easier to remove. Mangrove respond very well to chum and will eat shrimp, cut mullet, ballyhoo, and squid.

Cubera Snapper: I am sorry I donít have a great deal of experience with Cuberas, but I do know they show up most often in May on deep wrecks, and are best caught at night. The most common method is to use heavy tackle and lobster for bait.

Mutton Snapper: This may very well be the best eating snapper of all! A fantastic texture to the meat with high fat content that gives the incredible eatability. The letter "M" is the ticket. They bite best between March and May. They bite best in the morning. Now donít go by this as gospel, because they can be caught all year long, and any time of day. Muttons can be caught from the edge of the flats out to almost 300 feet of water. You can tell where they were caught by the color. Muttons will school on patches, reef, natural, and man made structure. They arenít usually found in large numbers, but how many muttons do you need when they run in the 10-30 pound range? They will eat both live and dead bait, including ballyhoo, cigar minnows, pilchards, crabs, and jigs. Keep you leaders long, hooks small or hidden and your tackle appropriate for the job at hand.

Queen Snappers: Queens are another deep-water snapper, mostly found very deep in over 1000 feet of water. They are elusive, but quite a magnificent fish. They get up to 30 pounds and are great eating. They reside mostly on natural bottom contour, and in large numbers. They eat squid and bonita. You must use circle hooks, and can use large tackle. They bite hard and fast and fight great. Electric reels come in handy due to the depths in which they reside.

Yellowtail Snapper: Yellowtail are the most sought after, maybe the most prolific and perhaps the most finicky of the snapper family. Yellowtail can be either very rewarding, or they can make you want to pull you hair out. So break out your spinning rod loaded with 12 to 20 pound test and use a #2 or #4 short shank hook, and put on shrimp, cut ballyhoo, or fresh bonita. Use only enough bait to cover the hook. Start a chum line, and drift your bait with the chum, making it drift as natural as possible. (it must look like the chum) Yellowtail also eat jigs! Use small jigs and preferably yellow or chartreuse. You can also use sand balls, but typically this will produce smaller fish. They can be caught on shallow patches, reef line and terrain or wrecks out to 150 feet. The hottest spots will be 50 to 95 feet of water, and the best time is spring and early summer.


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