Seek & you shall find Boca Raton yellowtail

  • Editor's note: "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" airs each Saltwater Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Episode 1, depicting the yellowtail fishing excursion below, debuts Sunday, Jan. 1. This episode re-airs Jan. 7 at 6 a.m. ET and Jan. 8 at 6:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit www.georgepoveromo.com.

    For many South Florida saltwater anglers, catching yellowtail snapper "locally" is a dream.

    That's because they believe the tasty, highly desirable snapper have been long "fished out" by the hoards of fishermen in Broward and Palm Beach counties — to the point where they don't believe trying for them is worth the effort.

    And for those savvy anglers who know better, that's just fine with them.

    The fact is, quality fishing for yellowtail snapper does indeed exist off South Florida. You just need to know where to go and how to do it.

    While many Broward and Palm Beach county anglers head east to the Bahamas, or south to the Florida Keys to bottom fish, there are numerous anglers who do just as well — and sometimes better — within a few miles of their local inlets.

    Just this spring, I got together with Boca Raton's Ed Kimmen to yellowtail fish along the local reefs. Kimmen is a master at catching a variety of fish off Boca Raton, and he and I departed the Boca Inlet aboard my boat to have a go at these popular snapper.

    Our destination was a section of reef between 50 and 65 feet of water, some five miles north of the inlet. It was here that we planned on executing an aggressive chumming strategy to rally the fish, and drifting cut bait back into the slick to catch them. More on this technique later.

    Yellowtails are structure-oriented fish. Therefore, it's imperative you locate a stretch of reef highlighted by sharp rises and dips; it is around such sanctuary where these fish flourish.

    If your fish finder has a zoom feature, adjust it to magnify the view of the last ten or 20 feet of the water column, where you can study the structure for bait and yellowtail.

    Once a potentially productive stretch of bottom is located, anchor up current far enough so that your chum filters down into and along the reef; miss the reef with your chum and you will miss the fish.

    Compared to yellowtail fishing in the Bahamas and Keys, where a block or two of frozen chum is hung overboard to draw in fish, power chumming is the key in rallying them off South Florida.

    On our trip, we added 4- to 5-pound blocks of frozen menhaden chum to a large mesh bag, and hung it overboard to thaw and disperse. Off the opposite transom, we hung over a smaller mesh bag containing two blocks of frozen chum.

    To occasionally spice up the slick, we ladled over a thawed concoction comprised of melted menhaden chum, menhaden oil, oats and glass minnows.

    In the Bahamas and Florida Keys, yellowtail — often in large schools — rise into the chum slick and sometimes right up to the chum bag.

    Off Boca, and most of South Florida, for that matter, the yellowtails prefer to remain well behind the boat, and deep. We did not see any fish rising into our chum slick, outside of Bermuda chubs and various bait fish.

    To catch the yellowtails, we had to get back to them.

    Armed with 12-pound-class bait-casting tackle and a No. 4 hook tied to six feet of either 12- or 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader, we baited with small strips of squid, ballyhoo, bonito and whole silversides.

    We'd sometimes add a light split-shot sinker a couple of feet above the hook, to help reach bottom in the current.

    The trick was to let the bait drift back into the slick with absolutely no resistance. To accomplish this, we'd strip off line with one hand, and whip the rod tip with the other to help lay out the excess line on the water's surface. It's imperative to have a bunch of slack at the surface, to where the bait floats back at the same rate as the chum.

    Sometimes getting a bite required almost half the spool to be let out. However, the excess line would suddenly straighten out from a fish taking the bait, prompting us to engage the drag, wind tight to the fish to set the hook, and have fun playing up a fat Boca yellowtail.

    Kimmen and I caught legal-size (12 inches) yellowtail at will, proving that excellent bottom fishing does indeed exist off our heavily populated coastline.

    To cash in on the action, you just need to:

  • Locate a "live" stretch of reef.

  • Chum like there's no tomorrow (we burned through 18 blocks of chum that day).

  • Free-line a bait back into the slick at the same rate the chum is flowing.

  • Take just a few fish home for a fresh meal; it's a sound insurance policy for making sure these reefs will provide plenty of fun in the years ahead.

  • "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" airs each Saltwater Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Episode 1, depicting the yellowtail fishing excursion above, debuts Sunday, Jan. 1. For more on George Poveromo, visit www.georgepoveromo.com.