The Florida Keys are a fisherman’s paradise, and one of the most sought-after catches is the yellowtail snapper. These species inhabit reefs and wrecks of the Florida Keys and offer abundant opportunities for those looking to enjoy a day on the water. With their bright yellow tails, these snappers provide an exciting challenge for anglers and are popular among experienced and novice fishermen.

Fishing in the Florida Keys for yellowtail snappers is a tradition. Still, it’s become even more popular in recent years with the growing trend of “flag chasing” – the pursuit of catching yellowtail snappers over 20 inches long. 

In 2018 Florida Sportsman Magazine featured me as one best yellowtail snapper fishermen in the State of Florida. The techniques I shared changed how most were fishing for yellowtail at the time. It was my gift to the snapper fishing world.  

Click on the image to read the featured article. 

The Best Yellowtail Snapper Fishing Ti[ps

However, seeing how devoted these anglers have become to landing a “flag” yellowtail snapper is genuinely unique. Catching big “flag” yellowtail snappers during the daytime can be exciting for anglers looking for a real challenge.

To maximize success one must learn the following techniques:

  • Learn how to Flat Line-Free Spool
  • Homemade Chum recipes and strategies
  • Utilize Special baits/scents
  • Anchoring 
  • GPS Coordinates 

With this knowledge, you’ll be a master of flag yellowtail snapper fishing in no time!

Flat Line-Free Spool Technique 

To consistently catch large flag yellowtails in the Florida Keys, it helps to be an expert in free-spooling – a fine art that requires skill and careful attention to detail. When free lining for yellowtail snappers, it’s essential to ensure that your bait drifts away from the boat at the same rate as the chum. Avoid allowing too much or too little line to flow off the reel, nor should you stop the line once it starts coming off.

With free-spooling, slight variations in the flow of your line from the spool can make or break a yellowtail snapper bite. When there is hesitation in the fishing line during the free spool process, it becomes visible to the fish. The fluorocarbon line will “shine” and give itself away if it does not flow freely with the current. The bait must move freely with the ocean current. If it does not, it is unnatural to the fish.

Ensure every little movement of your line is in sync with that current. Pay attention to your drift from start to finish, and you’ll reap the rewards. 

Fishing for yellowtail snappers may seem easy in theory, but when you factor in difficult ocean conditions such as unfavorable currents, winds against currents, swells, 100% ocean water visibility, boat pressure, finicky fish, and very bright sun, to name a few, it can become significantly more challenging. The key is to be prepared for any situation and adjust your strategy according to the current conditions. However, with the proper knowledge and preparation, you can catch yellowtails despite what mother nature throws at you. 

If you want to cut years off the learning curve and get better results faster, consider joining  Good Karma Sportfishing’s private fishing clubs. The cost is 279.00 a month and designed to cut years off the learning curve. 

Yellowtail Snapper Fishing Courses

Good Karma Sportfishing also offers a range of courses that will help you cut years off the learning curve and become successful in catching yellowtail snappers. 

Some of the topics covered in the course include:

  • Detailed instructions on tackling difficult ocean conditions.
  • Adjusting your strategy according to current conditions.
  • Successfully catching fish despite mother nature’snature’s obstacles.
  • Chumming 
  • How to Find Your GPS Coordinates
  • Wrecks and Reefs
  • Anchoring
  • Special Baits and Scents

With these courses, you can gain knowledge and cut years off the learning curve. To view the list of courses click here.

The Best Yellowtail Fishing Rods

Fishing for big yellowtails requires using the right gear. I prefer using a heavier spinning rod that’s 6 feet long and has medium-heavy power with a softer tip. Each rod is custom-built by Adrenaline Custom Fishing rods. 

These custom fishing rods by Adrenaline Custom Fishing Rods are multi-purpose fishing rods which means I can use them for targeting tuna, mahi-mahi, yellowtail, and mutton snapper fishing, not just yellowtail fishing. 

If you want to purchase the same rod I use on all my fishing charters, these rods will be available in April 2023 at the Tavernier Creek Marina’s fishing store- Chris’s Bait and Tackle.  

Flag yellowtail Snapper

The Best Yellowtail Fishing Leader Line

As for the leader, typically, I start with 20-lb. fluorocarbon and adjust accordingly depending on how the fish respond. The fish usually get “leader shy” over a couple of hours of fishing. As this happens, I start to lighten my leader. 

Finding a high-quality leader line can be challenging nowadays due to supply chain issues, so I use various fluorocarbons. Recently, a local Islamorada bait and tackle store informed me that a component used to make the pink Diamond Presentation fluorocarbon leader is the same component used to create a part of the electric car industry. Hence, why is there a shortage of pink Momoi Diamond Presentation pink color leaders? Who knows? I sure don’t. 

Have a couple of yellowtail fishing rods ready spooled with 15-20 lb. monofilament fishing line or 20-30 lb. braided fishing line. You can opt for a heavier line if the water is cloudy or if the current is light. I prefer using a 15 ft section of fluorocarbon leader, using the spider hitch and bristol knot methods for a reliable connection. 

I use Momoi Presenation monofilament leader, I recommend using smoke blue as this color tends to blend in very well with water and sky. I trust only Momoi brands of monofilament. 

Momoi Presentation 

For the braid line, I either the following: 

As you catch a fish, you will need to cut back on the leader; you will find that once the leader gets too short, the fish will stop biting. That is when you need to stop everything you are doing and re-tie a fresh piece of 15 ft. leader and start over. 

When fishing for yellowtail snappers, it pays to start with the heaviest leader size first and then work your way down as the fish become leader shy. For example, start with a 30 lb. leader, and if the fish stop biting, scale down to 20 lb., and so forth.

The Best Yellowtail Hooks

Stainless Steel Hooks 

When fishing for yellowtail snappers and the mutton snappers are spawning in the spring, it’s a good idea to use stainless steel hooks. As they won’t bend out when fighting against a fish. 

Yellowtail Jigs

Plain hooks are my go-to choice when targeting schools of heavily pressured yellowtails. However, I may switch to jigs if the conditions call for jigs. A yellowtail jig and fresh bait combination work well in moderate too strong currents as the jig has just enough movement and action as it floats back with the chum. Cover the jig with bait and tie on a low-profile knot to ensure you get a successful catch. 

I recommend you purchase all of the below jig sizes and various colors. All the yellowtail plain hooks I use and jigs heads will be available at Chris’s Bait and Tackle at Tavernier Creek Marina in April 2023. 

  • 1/32 oz.
  • 1/16 oz.
  • 1/8 oz.
  • 1 oz.

The Best Florida Keys Tackle Shops for Yellowtail Fishing Supplies

The Good Karma Sportfishing section of the tackle store at Tavernier Creek Marina will have products that I use on display for sale at the shop. These will include a limited assortment of custom-built Adrenaline Rods and lead weights. These will consist of products I use to target the following species. 

  • Yellowtail Snapper
  • Mutton Snapper
  • Groupers
  • Wahoo
  • Dolphin
  • Tuna
  • GoldenTile Fish
  • Queen Snapper

Mindset and Snapper Fishing

Pursuing big flag yellowtail and mutton snappers has fueled incredible competition among anglers on Instagram, which I find a little silly and not the best use time or energy. Unfortunately, this ego-driven mindset will hurt an angler without him even knowing it. As someone in the fishing charter business for over ten years, I’ve had the privilege to witness this phenomenon firsthand. The people who do this never really excel into becoming one of the best in the industry. They don’t have the right mindset.

A golf swing is like fishing; if you lose it, you lose. A fisherman with a big ego, when they lose it, they lose it. They get sponsors, but if they don’t catch, they lose that sponsor, just like a golfer. If he doesn’t win, that sponsor leaves and moves on to the next guy.

Ego kills talent.

For anyone looking to become a “great” fisherman, the vital part is to remember to keep a positive mindset. If you do love it, it will happen naturally. I made so many mistakes, ya it sucked, but I have to tell you that from each error, I learned from it and developed my style, and I am very proud of it. You have to make mistakes along the way to create your style. Don’t try to copy anyone. Just make your path and do your own thing. Take what I teach you in all my podcasts and blogs, tweak it, and make it your own. 


Becoming overly obsessed with catching a big fish can lead to disappointment and a loss of enjoyment. However, with patience, skill, and a little bit of luck, you’ll be able to make sure you come back in time with some great stories, good-eating fish, and memorable catches. So gear up, get out there, and start fishing for your own “flag” yellowtail snappers.

Remember, as I always say, “Anytime you’re fishing it’s all good.”

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