The genus of Lutjanus of the Lutjanidae family of snapper fish, Mutton Snappers are mainly found in the Caribbean but are known to inhabit the waters from North Carolina to South America. Preferring coral reef structures where they find a high resource of prey and protective cover, they can be encountered over coralline bottoms in shallow waters around the Florida Keys.
In shallow waters, olive-tinted backs and red sides make them very colorful and easy to identify, but Mutton Snappers are often mistaken for red snappers in deeper waters. These beautiful fish are incredibly tasty and anglers consider them to be an extremely prized fish to catch. They are often caught as a “bycatch” when targeting other snapper species and grouper. Spear fishermen love to hunt Mutton Snapper but they prove rather difficult to catch this way as they do not allow close approaches.
Adult Mutton Snappers prefer their own company and tend toward solitariness. They can be found in small schools and there are many ways to bait them. Here is some information to help you when Mutton Snapper fishing in Florida:
Bait for Mutton Snapper
Commonly caught on both live and frozen shrimp, whole or cut squid, small crabs, minnows and smaller bait fish such as pinfish. They love fresh ballyhoo. Although they can be caught on artificial baits such as lures, they definitely bite better on live bait. At night, they can be coaxed to the surface with an irresistible chum slick and caught on a strip of clean cut bait. These fish are fussy and sloppy bait will not be taken. Red and white bucktail jigs and red and white nylon jigs can be used with fresh bait.
Tackle for Mutton Snapper
When compared to other snapper varieties, Mutton Snappers are far more exhilarating fighters and are harder to catch on light tackle. Medium light spinning tackle is ideal, with a monofilament line and a fluorocarbon leader that is invisible. These are intelligent fish and are easily spooked, which is why some anglers prefer to not use a leader at all. A 4/0 reel and a quality bottom rod, as well as a 5/0 standard hook or 7/0 circle hook is required, along with the necessary weights. Use only enough weight to get your bait to the fish. If possible, free line your bait without any weight. The less cumbersome and heavy your tackle, the better your results will be.
Where to find Mutton Snapper
During the daytime they can be found in deeper waters ranging between 50ft and 200ft or more in deep reef ridges, they can also be caught near the surface during night fishing excursions. As it grows dark, Mutton Snappers move into shallower waters, feeding in the grass flats and keeping close to structures in their search for prey.
Techniques for Mutton Snapper
Bottom-fishing is by far the preferred method for catching Mutton Snapper. Cast your line either straight down or free line your bait. At night, you can anchor on the edges of the flats and free line whole bait along the grass. Not many Mutton Snappers are caught this way, but when you catch one it is bound to be a massive fish.
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