Identified by a yellow stripe that runs the full length of the body from forward of the eye to the deeply forked yellow tail. The stripe is vivid in young fish, but pales with maturity. Color above the line is bluish with yellow patches; silvery white below. No prominent teeth as in most other Snappers.
SIZE: From less than a foot in coastal shallows to an average of 1-3 pounds on deep reefs.“Flags” running as heavy as 4 or 5 pounds are common, and a few run to 7 or 8 pounds. World record 11 pounds; Florida record 8 pounds, 9 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent if fresh or well-iced.
GAME QUALITIES: Pound-for-pound, among the best of reef fishes. Because most are hooked high in the water column, they usually make long, strong runs.Yellowtail are masters at cutting lines on the edge of a dropoff, or fouling them on high reef growth.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Undersize fish in the shallows will greedily hit nearly any bait or lure. Yellowtails of decent size, however, are almost always caught in out- side reef areas.They are among the wariest of biters, generally requiring lighter lines, leaders, hooks and sinkers than the angler would really like to use. Regulars mostly try to get by with spinning tackle and 15-pound line, but on many days must go to 12-pound lines or smaller, to produce or sustain any action. Small dead baits—cut fish, cut squid and pieces of shrimp catch the mostYellowtails because those baits are similar in size and buoyancy to the ground chum that is used to lure them close and turn on their appetites. In many areas of the Bahamas and Caribbean,Yellowtail are caught by trolling a variety of lures, or by casting with small jigs, and even flies. Best luck anywhere is likely to come at night.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Drifting;Trolling.
RANGE: Yellowtail are common only in South Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, although odd catches are made in other areas of the state, especially offshore Gulf reefs.
HABITAT: Small fish grow up around shallow coastal reefs and patches. Best fishing depths in most areas are 60 to about 120 feet, with nearly all the “Flags” coming from the deepest habitat. Yellowtail school heavily and hang around dropoffs or humps.