This article references How to Catch More Fish: The Art of Fishing.
Knowing the technique is not always enough. Finding the right location and understanding the fish is important. This is kind of like the basic science part of fishing.
The Yellowtail Snapper is a tropical reef fish primarily. While they may roam the bays at times their real home is the coral reef. The reef offers plenty of hiding places for their safety and the changing currents bring plenty of food to them. These are the keys to finding Yellowtails.
Structure is everywhere on the reef, but there are areas that are better that others. Structure is places for fish to hide. Coral areas with higher vertical profiles offer more hiding places. Normally there will be small sand patches in areas of high profile structure. Find these areas in 30 to 50 foot of water to start learning to fish for yellowtail.
The best way to find a place to anchor is to find structure then move up current. If you mark on your bottom finder two of more likely spots that helps. The spots should be fairly close together, roughly thirty feet or so. Anchored properly, your chum slick will draw fish from both areas.
Starting in thirty foot of water is perfect depth to learn fishing on the reef. On most days you can look over the side of the boat and see the structure. The darker color of the coral versus the lighter color of the sand stands out. Compare what you see to the bottom finder. If the spot is productive, remember the bottom finder display for future trips where the water is deeper or darker.
Fish the area using the technique described in the referenced article. Shake the chum bag vigorously to start at steady flow of chum. Fish will normally appear in the slick within 20 minutes on a good spot this shallow. While waiting for them to show, practice your technique of deploying the bait. Bits of shrimp are fine but mix up your bait. Small silverside minnow, about two inches long are great and you don’t have to cut them up. Just hook them in the head and let them drift.
Cut fish or squid work fine for bait though I am not partial to the squid. Cut bait should be about 1/2″ wide and at least twice as long. Hook the bait in one end one time. Don’t wad the bait up on the hook. If you take live shrimp great! Just don’t use them all at the start. Save some for later in the bite when the bigger fish arrive.
If you have not gotten a bite going in forty-five minutes or only the smaller fish have started it may not happen. In that case figure out why or move to another spot. The ways are; is the current real slow, the current too fast or the current running up the anchor line. On a slow current, as long as it is moving towards the back of the boat you may want to stay a little longer. If the current is too fast think about how well you have varied the weight. Adding a small split shot weight may be required. If the current is taking the chum up the anchor line you may need to move deeper or shallower to find a more favorable current.
If you have fish in the slick that are just small, that is a definite move signal. Try deeper, say the forty-foot to fifty-foot range and start over. It will take longer on average to get the bite going in deeper water. As a rough rule add a minute per foot to judge the spot.
Once you get a bite going, if the fish are of a good size, mark the spot. Fish that spot often to train the fish. Every time you fish that area the fish will show up a little faster. If you can’t fish the area often enough to train fish take more chum and more patience. If you feed them they will come.
Okay I didn’t say rocket science! For Yellowtail, habitat (structure), feeding conditions (current flow), and feeding habits (trainable and match the chum). So mix it all together and to kick Yellowtail butt. Find good structure with acceptable current flow. Chum like crazy to start. Adjust your bait presentation. Get in touch with your inner fish.
Hint: Always be on the lookout for bigger fish. Mangrove snapper, mutton snapper and grouper may show up at anytime.