Yellowtail snapper, larger ones commonly known as “flags” to fisherman, are found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean. The larger ones are strong fighters and they make a great meal.
About Yellowtail Snapper
Yellowtail are reef fish; they live around structure of reef or wreck. They are characterized by a yellow stripe that runs the length of their body and a forked yellow tail, hence the name. They do not grow to be very big. The average size caught is 14 inches, although they can be caught larger, it is rare. They are typically between one and three pounds.
Yellowtail are typically found in 20-200 feet of water though they are usually caught on the shallower side of that range. They feed on smaller fish, shrimp and crabs found on the reef. They live in schools and can be found in large numbers.
Yellowtail can be fished for year round. Chumming for yellowtail is advisable as it will keep them hanging around the boat. Chum in a mesh bag hanging from the boat is preferable as it will soak and create a chum slick; if there is some current that is even better to get the slick drifting behind the boat. Yellowtail are weary of big hooks and bait, light tackle is prefered so the fish can’t see the hook or line. Line under 12 pound test is prefered. Dirty water also helps so that the chum slick may be hidden. If these fish feel something is up, they won’t bite.
Fishing at anchor, drifting and sometimes trolling are good methods for yellowtail. Live shrimp is the preferred bait although frozen bait will work as well. Squid, smaller bait fish and minnows also make good bait. Be careful with these guys as they are notorious for tangling and cutting line on the sharp edges of the reef.