Submit your Email to receive the On Wisconsin Outdoors Newsletter.

Our Sponsors:

Adams County Parks

Dave's Turf & Marine

/Content/files/Sponsors/ProLine.png

Kwik Trip

Dick Ellis Blog:
6/30/2021
WHO SUPPORTS A WOLF GOAL OF 350 OR LESS IN WISCONSIN? Thirty-six Wisconsin County Boards have passed resolutions supporting a wolf goal of 350 (7) or 350 or less (26), 100 or less (1), 80 or less (1), or 50 or less (1).  The votes: Barron, Burnett, Vilas, Taylor, Florence, Forest, Iron, Jackson, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Shawano, Waushara, Waupaca, Grant all passed unanimously, Adams, 16 for, 2 ag...
...Read More or Post a Comment Click Here to view all Ellis Blogs

OWO

Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

Kwik Trip

OWO

Kwik Trip

OWO

OWO

OWO and Kwik Trip

OWO and Kwik Trip

OWO

OWO and Kwik Trip

OWO

/Content/files/Sponsors/Summer.jpg

OWO

OWO

Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip

/Content/files/Sponsors/BuckysBanner-nov-dec2012.png

Bob's Bear Bait

OWO and Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip

OWO and Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip

OWO

/Content/files/Sponsors/AdvertiseBrown.png

OWO

OWO

HUNTING FOR YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER

By Mike Yurk,

There was fourteen inches of snow on the ground at my home in Hudson, Wisconsin, but at the moment the winter weather was far from our minds as the 26- foot charter boat Meridian was leaving the harbor just north of Key West, Florida, heading out onto the Atlantic Ocean.

Wisconsin was experiencing their first major blizzard of the early winter. In Key West the weather was overcast but warm with temperatures in the mid-70s and humid.

This fishing trip had been in the planning stages for a couple of months. My friend Larry, who lives in Key West, called one night and asked what kind of fishing trip we wanted. The options were wide open. We could go trolling for large fish like sailfish or anything smaller. I told Larry that we wanted to target food fish for a fish fry and mentioned that yellowtail snapper was a favorite.

Yellowtail Snapper Key West Tim Wegener in Key West
“The day’s catch of yellowtail snappers.” “Tim Wegener shows off two to the yellowtails that will become our dinner that night.”

While people were blowing out their driveways back home, five of us were slowly motoring through the channel leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The Captain of our boat was Jeremy Edwards. He has fished in the Keys for the last seventeen years for the last three years has owned his own boat. Our friends from Key West, Larry May and Jamie Smith, who had chucked the rat race in Chicago thirteen years ago and moved to Key West, were joining us. Tim Wegener, of Random Lake, Wisconsin and I had just left before the snow storms started in the upper Midwest and had been looking forward to this day since the temperatures back home started dropping into the freezing mark some weeks ago.

As we hit the ocean, winds picked up and the boat plowed into the waves. What seemed fairly calm on shore was a lot rougher once we hit the open seas. It was fascinating to watch the sea turn colors. The waters started out as a light turquoise, turned to a darker turquoise and then finally a gun steel gray We ran for about forty five minutes until Captain Jeremy found the reef he was looking for. We were on the edge of the blue water and just a hundred yards away the gray sea turned dark blue.

Captain Jeremy ran the boat along the reef until he found a school of fish, pulled back on the throttle and nimbly crawled around the side of the boat to the front deck where he dropped anchor. He announced that we were in fifty five to fifty eight feet of water and there should be a school of snappers below us.

He chopped up several bait fish, called ballyhoo, threaded a chunk of bait on a hook and showed us a technique called flat lining. He explained that we needed to make a short cast, keep the bail open and strip off line. We would feel a fish hit as the line rapidly shot off the reel and then we needed to flip over the bait on the reel, set the hook and bring the fish in.

He handed the first rod to Larry and almost instantly a fish hit. Larry’s spinning rod was bent over and the rod tip was plunging as the fish raced off. Larry cranked furiously on his spinning reel and slowly and begrudgingly the fish came in. Finally Larry had it next to the boat and lifting the rod he dragged the fish into the boat. It was a keeper yellowtail snapper that was dropped into a bucket. It was the first fish for our fish fry.

Tim and I wobbled to the back of the boat as it pitched in the waves. I grabbed a small half inch chunk of bait fish, threaded it onto a small pink jig and flipped it over the side. The jig reminded me of the jigs I use for walleye fishing in the Midwest. It is surprising how fishing can be so much the same from different parts of the country regardless of the waters fished.

I pulled line off the reel and watched as the current drifted it off behind the boat. Suddenly I felt the line running through my fingers and I flipped over the bail on the reel. Instantly I felt the weight of the fish and my spinning rod came alive.

The spinning rods we were using are a little heavier then I would use on the Mississippi River and it always amazes me what a strong fight salt water fish have. The rod was doubled over and the drag briefly gave out line before I tuned the fish and got it coming back toward the boat. I could see it flash silver in the blue water as it got closer but it stubbornly fought back before I hoisted it in the boat.

The fish was a thirteen inch yellowtail snapper and it too was dropped into the dinner bucket. Yellowtails are a bit wider and a little heavier than similar fish we would catch back home such as a sauger or walleye but yellowtails fight like a fish twice its size.

The flat lining technique we were using has applications for fresh water fishing, especially on rivers such as the Mississippi where there is a strong current.

In another couple of casts I caught another keeper yellowtail and then looked over to see Tim’s spinning rod bent in half. He was grinning as he battled his fish, which repeatedly dove until a final surrender. It was another yellowtail, a bit bigger than the ones we had been catching. Our bucket was beginning to fill up.

We had about a half dozen fish in the bucket when Capt. Jeremy announced that we needed to move in an effort to catch more fish. We thought the fishing was good as it was but he moved the boat a few hundred yards further along the reef into forty five to forty eight feet of water where he dropped anchor.

In the next couple of hours we experienced some of the most fantastic fishing I can ever remember. We steadily had strikes and continued to throw more fish on ice. It seemed that we never went more than a few minutes without someone having a fish on.

When we finally stopped we had twenty five yellowtail snapper in the ice chest and probably threw back at least as many fish as we kept. Tim caught two grouper, the biggest fish we landed. Both fish were over twenty inches but still a couple of inches shy of the legal size limit so they were released after great fights.

Captain Jeremy told me that snappers are a year round fishery in the waters around Key West. “We can always find them,” he said.

Yurk Key West Key West Yurk
“The Meridian, our charter for a day of fishing for yellowtail snappers on the Atlantic Ocean out of Key West.” “Captain Jeremy unloads our catch of yellowtail snappers.”

Back at the marina Captain Jeremy cleaned our fish and we left with two plastic bags bulging with fillets. Once filleted each fish provided a nice white chunk of meat, a little larger than a good sized crappie fillet. That night we ended up in of our favorite restaurants in Key West. At the Half Shell Raw bar we ordered drinks, oysters on the half shell and handed our waitress a bag of yellowtail fillets.

Three dozen fresh oysters and a couple of rounds of drinks later we were ushered to a table where we were served two big platters of fish, blackened and deep fried, with a large bowl of boiled round potatoes and another of coleslaw. The fish, my favorite salt water eating fish tasted fantastic.

It was dark outside as we ate and the wind gently swayed the masts of the boats tied to the docks just outside the restaurant. It was still warm and we appreciate it probably more than most people since we knew that over a foot of snow blanketed our lawns back home. We would return home days later but until then, we were loving paradise.

Author’s note: Captain Jeremy Edwards and Meridian Charters is located at Hurricane Hole Marina right off US Highway 1 on Stock Island just as you leave Key West. Connect at www.MeridianBoatCharters.com or info@MeridianBoatCharters.com or by phone at 305-393-9618. In addition to fishing for yellowtail snappers he provides a wide variety of other fishing opportunities around Key West.

The Half Shell Raw Bar will provide a setup for a fish fry for about $10 per pound of fillets. They are located at 231 Margaret St. and can be contacted at 305-294-7496.

Editor’s Note: Mikes Yurk’s column is sponsored by Warner’s Dock in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Warner’s Dock is the premier marine dealer in northwestern Wisconsin, offering a complete supply of new and used boats, motors, and trailers as well as other marine supplies plus a complete maintenance staff for all your boating needs. They can be contacted through their website at www.warnersdock.com or by telephone at 1-888-222-3625.