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Drifting for Yellowtail

What is the best technique and bait to use while drifting for yellowtail in 65’ of water? 


  • conchydongconchydong Posts: 15,383 AG
    Why would you drift for Yellowtail in 65' as opposed to anchoring up and chumming? Just curious.

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • BigRichBigRich Posts: 92 Deckhand
    Can’t anchor a pontoon boat.  Just kidding.  I don’t have an anchor for my boat yet.
  • Aquaholic IVAquaholic IV Posts: 1,073 Officer
    BigRich said:
    Can’t anchor a pontoon boat.  Just kidding.  I don’t have an anchor for my boat yet.
    How about a Minn Kota Terrova or Ulterra Trolling Motor with the GPS Anchor Function?  Anchors are very reasonable cost, you really need to purchase one.  What if your engine quits and you are in a congested area, near bridges, docks, etc.  First thing you do in an emergency is throw an anchor.  Now back to the question, you need to anchor up and start a chum slick for about twenty minutes and then float your baits back into the chum slick.  Squid, frozen sardines, pilchards, or any type of cut fish chunks.  
  • BigRichBigRich Posts: 92 Deckhand
    Yup.  Thanks.  Don’t have one yet but will get one soon.  In the meantime, would like to catch some yellowtail.  Any tips would help.  
  • conchydongconchydong Posts: 15,383 AG
    Yellowtail respond to chumming. Drifting across a reef would be a hit and miss affair with many more misses and a lot of snags. One of the reasons for chumming is to get them up off of the bottom and away from the "trash" fish. If you insist on not anchoring than a small jighead with a silverside or a ballyhoo strip pinned on it  might be your best bet. 

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • BigRichBigRich Posts: 92 Deckhand
    Thanks. That’s what I was doing yesterday. I couldn’t figure out whether it was better to jig it near the bottom or just free line it to the bottom and then quickly retrieve.
  • CaptJCaptJ Posts: 2,104 Captain
    Just use a Carolina rig and let your bait hit bottom and freespool line as the boat drifts. You'll catch a few as well as any other bottom fish in the area. Used to do this while drifting for Kings a little deeper and always had some color in the box at the end of the day. While doing your drift reel up a few feet every once in a while then drop down on new bottom if not getting bit. Sooner or later they'll find you. Works better over sand as there's a lot of rocks right on top of the reef.
  • MangroveMarkMangroveMark Posts: 584 Officer
    Conchy and CaptJ have given you good advice. I would add fishing deeper, 100 ft. and on in. My go to jig for yellowtail drifting is a chartreuse !/8 oz Speckline by H&H Lure Company with a #1 hook. If the drift is really fast, you can go up to 1/4 oz. I prefer a small squid strip or just a tentacle or two. Hanging a block of chum can be done drifting but often your slick will be away from where your baits are drifting. Use small spinners with straight 10 lb for the most bites but 15 or 20lb floro will give you a better chance of catching a bigger fish like a mutton. Keep free spooling your bait and they will zip it on the bite when you then lock it up and catch them. Once you get most of the spool out or get hung up, then it's time to wind in and start over. Anchoring is much better but they can be caught drifting.
  • BigRichBigRich Posts: 92 Deckhand
    Thanks.  Went out today and the drift was terrible, almost straight west and all the fish that I was marking yesterday were gone today.  Better luck next time.
  • CaptJCaptJ Posts: 2,104 Captain
    You'd be surprised how deep you can catch Yellowtail. I normally anchor in 150' and up for them.
  • MangroveMarkMangroveMark Posts: 584 Officer
    You're right on that! I remember a time drifting west off Memory Rock and we caught them out to 180 ft. And it was the deeper we drifted, the bigger the tails. When I commercial fished them out of Boynton in the 70's and 80's we had some spots off Highland Beach where we anchored in 120-140 ft. and caught true flags.
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