Cooler Temps Mean Shallow Water Muttons
October 26th 2022 – Fall is definitely in the air here in Key West. That means less humidity and cooler overall temps. It also means great conditions for shallow water mutton snappers. From now through the end of March the muttons can be found in the shallows making a nice surprise catch for my backcountry fishing and flats fishing anglers.
As the temps start to cool from the balmy 92 degrees and humid as hell to the 80 degrees and comfortably dry we start to see a noticeable change in our Key West fishing activity. Bait and more bait. Along our shore lines and in our basins we have massive amounts of pilchards, ballyhoo and mullets doing their thing. Milling about trying not to get blasted by a predator of some sort. Barracudas, Jacks, Sharks, blue fish and more are always within striking distance on these delicious bait fish although the winter making a mess of the waters with the blood and pieces of tasty bait fish. Right behind them are the snappers cleaning things up. All the while the snappers are looking for wounded baits that might have been nicked or grazed making a slower easier target. On the flats and in the shallows muttons can be on the prowl.
This is a natural progression. All these bait fish are in there to feed the shallows. Some anglers are led to believe that all the snappers in the backcountry are small. Yes, there are some small ones but there are also some pigs that have learned about the easy meals to be had in the shallows during the cooler waters. Not just mutton snappers either.. We also get some nice sized mangrove, yellowtail and lane snappers as well using our unique fishing techniques.
This time of the year my backcountry fishing and flats fishing charters can include some time looking for or casting for mutton snappers and their buddies. This has become more and more popular with my anglers that want a shot at a lunch special to take to a Hook and Cook. There are several techniques I use with my anglers but most involve my favorite lipped artificial lures from Yo-zuri and Rapala with a sprinkle of some custom tied lead head buck tail jigs. I also have a favorite fly that I tie for my fly fishing clients that want a shot at a snapper on fly. Its all fun..
Pro Fishing Tips
Deciding on what technique to use depends on many factors. Water clarity, local natural food sources and geography. It also depends on what my client is comfortable with.
For example. My bass fishermen love to throw a lipped plugs. I am usually fishing in less than 10 feet of water. So I really like a 4 – 6″ thinner bait that gets a good long cast over my productive areas and gets down about 4 ft. Click On the plugs to learn where to purchase them.
Any of those plugs will offer a great shot at any species of snapper or grouper lurking in the area. Along with some by-catch of a dozen other species.. While muttons spend most of their day on or near the bottom in the shallows they are always watching the skies for a wounded bait fish flailing through the area. When they see it they will come up and smash the bait taking it straight back down. Be Ready! Good news, often muttons will just run around the area and not rock up. Very random fight. I find that if we keep their heads up a bit they just run around and get exhausted. Making them easy to handle boat side especially with the lighter line I use on my DAIWA spinning rods.
Many times my anglers have caught mutton snappers up to 16lbs with just 15lb test line.. Takes finesse, patience and good rod handling to bag a big one on light tackle. Well worth the fight though – It’s really fun.
Backcountry Fishing Charters
My backcountry fishing charters are the best way to get after the shallow water mutton snappers. Offering 4, 6 and 8 hour trips there are so many really fun things we can do in addition. I use a 24 bay boat built by Yellowfin Yachts and powered by Mercury Racing.
After almost 30 years of running fishing charters in Key West I promise you the professionalism and level of equipment is so top of the line it’s ridiculous.