The yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus, is an abundant species of snapper found along the North American coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Yellowtail snapper are typically caught in 30-120 feet of water on and around reefs and other structure. The most common method of catching yellowtail snapper is with hook and line; and the use of frozen chum to attract the fish. The chum used to attract yellowtail is typically a five pound block of leftover fish parts that is ground and then frozen in to blocks. The chum is placed in to a mesh bag or metal basket that is then placed in to the water, and as the chum slowly melts, small pieces of fish will drift out and down towards the bottom, where the yellowtail typically feed. The chum attracts the fish, and keeps them near the boat for extended periods of time as well. Light tackle is the generally accepted means of catching yellowtail snapper. Typically, the fish are relatively wary of higher-test or thicker line, and larger hooks. Most fish caught by anglers range from eight inches to thirteen or fourteen inches, although catches to sixteen inches are not uncommon. Catches larger than seventeen inches are uncommon, and catches over twenty inches are generally considered rare. Yellowtail snapper can be caught on a variety of bait, including both live and frozen shrimp, squid, and a variety of live and frozen minnows or smaller baitfish. Yellowtail snapper can be caught on artificial baits and lures, but live or frozen bait is generally preferred. Yellowtail tend to be wary fish, and the appearance of larger fish, such as dolphins or sharks can scare off schools of yellowtail snapper until the offender leaves the area.
Although they have been found as far north as Massachusetts, their normal range is along Florida down through the West Indies and Brazil. In certain reefs, most notably in the Florida Keys, this beautifully colored fish is commonly spotted among divers and snorkelers. The yellow tailed snapper is also a popular and abundant game fish that makes excellent table fare. Yellowtail feed on shrimp, crabs, worms and smaller fish. They spawn in groups off the edge of reefs from spring to fall, but heavily in midsummer.
Most anglers pursue yellowtail snapper during the warmer months, but they can be caught throughout the year. Yellowtail must be 12" in overall length to be harvested in most areas, and bag limits apply in most regions. Yellowtail snapper is highly prized for its light, flaky meat and is considered by some to be one of, if not the best of the snapper family.