Key West Mutton Snapper Fishing

Mutton snapper are a prized catch in the Florida Keys, although they can be found throughout the western Atlantic Ocean. These fish are also common off the coast of Florida all the way south to Brazil and are plentiful in the Caribbean and lower Gulf of Mexico.

The mutton snapper is distinctive in appearance with olive-tinted backs and red sides. They feature a blue stripe on their head and a tell-tale black spot between the lateral line and dorsal fin.

The species commonly inhabit reef environments, with adults preferring areas with coral or rock. As juveniles, this snapper will stay in sandy environments with weeds in order to stay safe from predators.

Adults are generally solitary animals although sometimes school in small groups. Mutton snapper are excellent table fare are one of the more popular game fish because of this.

This fish can grow as large as 30 lb. but most caught will be less then 15 lb. The largest mutton snapper on record weighed 34 pounds. They generally populate depths between 60 and 300 feet and are most common between 80 and 200 feet.

Despite their size, these snapper are somewhat picky eaters, particularly when they are big.

As larvae, these fish feed on plankton near the surface before moving to their sandy sanctuaries. At that points, they graduate to larger plankton and small fish which are common to these areas.

Adults feed both day and night and consume small fish, shrimp, crabs, octopus, squid and snails. Mutton snapper reach sexual maturity at approximately five years old and breed between May and July with a peak coming on the full moon in May and June because Mutton’s spawn according to lunar cycles.

How I Fish for Mutton Snapper 

Mutton snapper are a very shy fish and are known to dislike the led sinkers. This is why when Mutton snapper fishing it’s key to use long leaders. Generally I use an egg sinker on my top shot then a swivel and a long leader usually 20 to 40 feet long depending on the strength of the current. Below is a simple diagram to help illustrate.


This rig is fished directly on the bottom with the led laying flat on the ocean floor. When you feel a bite it is best to let Mutton snapper eat for some time don’t be in a hurry to hook the fish its very easy to take off to early.