Mutton Snappers on the Menu

By: Terry Gibson

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Capt. Bill Taylor, who’s operated Black Dog Charters out of Jupiter for nearly 20 years, reports that the spring mutton snapper bite is on.

Like many fish species, mutton snapper begin spawning in the late spring and continue on into the summer months. These wily fish are a little easier to catch this time of the year because they’re feeding aggressively to get the energy they need to reproduce.

The mutton snapper fishery has really improved, from the lower Keys on around and up through Fort Pierce. Anglers even as far north as Jacksonville are reporting more and more of them.

Many anglers and scientists credit protecting their spawning areas in the Dry Tortugas National Park for enhancing mutton snapper and other reef fish populations. The Florida Current -- part of the Gulf Stream current system -- carries their offspring northward where newly hatched young find nursery habitats in the seagrasses in our estuaries and on nearshore reefs. Once they’re old enough, the fish move offshore to the reefs as deep as 300 feet.

Here are few great places to go mutton fishing.

Number one on the list is the Dry Tortugas National Park. Much of the park is open to fishing, and the “spillover effect” out of the protected areas is remarkable. You can catch a ride out there from Key West. Check out VIP Fishing Charters. The multi-day trips should be on your bucket list.

There’s also great mutton fishing throughout the Keys. Out of Key West, give Capt. Tony Murphy and the folks at Key Limey Charters a call. Tony is one the best anglers I’ve ever fished with and he’s a riot.

Elswhere in the Keys, give Capt. Geoffrey Campbell at Sweetwater Charters a call. He’s based in Islamorada.

The 65-foot party boat, the Gulf Stream, is an excellent, affordable way to enjoy a day of reef fishing out of Key Largo.

Out of Miami, give Capt. Bouncer Smith a call. He’s a legend.

And if you’re in Palm Beach County, you can’t miss with the folks aboard the Black Dog.

No matter where you target mutton snapper, make sure to ask your captain for a restaurant recommendation. A lot of places will cook your catch fresh. What better way to end a day after some great fishing?

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