Mutton Snapper

June 1
Outside the Reef: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, dogtooth snapper, mutton snapper, black snapper
Inside the reef: yellowtail, mutton snapper, and schoolmaster
Flats: bone fish, mangrove snapper

Pictured are Captain Sterling Vorus holding a Dogtooth Snapper, and Captain Dilzon with a hefty Mutton Snapper. Both are huge. The captains have had luck pulling in fish weighing up to 37 1/2 pounds heavy!
Mutton snapper are as Belizean of a fish as you can get. Catching mutton snapper in our local waters is just as much of a tradition for visiting sportsmen as the cultural night buffet at Captain Morganís on a Tuesday night. In fact, in last monthís edition of Saltwater Sportsman, an international sport fishing magazine, Ambergris Caye was named the best place on earth to catch mutton snapper. It makes me proud when Ambergris Caye gets recognized for the great sport fishing that weíve been blessed with.

Mutton snapper feed on crabs, shrimp and all types of small fish. I once, while snorkeling in Hol Chan, saw a mutton snapper struggling to choke down a puffer fish that, upon being attacked by the mutton snapper, had inflated itself in of the mutton snapper mouth. Both fish found themselves in a pretty silly situation. The snapper couldnít get rid of the puffer fish because it had inflated so much that he could neither swallow it nor spit it out and the puffer fish couldnít escape for the same reason. Donít know how they finally worked it out. Around Ambergris Caye mutton snapper start there life out on the flats west, south and north of the island concealed in mangroves and eel grass. I fish pan sized mutton snapper around the mangroves or on ramas, small artificial reefs constructed by commercial fishermen usually wood poles piled in a pyramid for the purpose of attracting mutton snapper. As mutton snapper reach the two to three pound size range they migrate to the reef where the hang around sea fans inside the reef and in cuts. I catch these by trolling live sardines through patches of sea fans. Iíll also usually hook up a porgy or two using this method. Once mutton snapper have grown to the five-pound range they migrate outside the reefs in 60 to 300 feet of water. For me, the best depth to hook big mutton snapper is around 120 feet on live sardines or the head section of mullet. Chumming the waters helps to bring the mutton snapper around. Mutton snapper like most big reef fish will run for cover when hooked so its important to reel the fish up off the bottom pretty fast for the first ten feet then can kick back and enjoy the fight. Mutton snapper are real brutes they angle their large flat sides toward the angler making for a gut busting fight all the way to the surface.

I remember one time when I worked as a fishing guide for Captain Morganís I had two guests and we had decided to reel in and head back because storm clouds had developed to the east. We got our baits to the surface and just as I started the motor the fish finder inside my brain started beeping Ö indicating for sure that two big hungry fish were right under the boat. So, quickly, I ordered my guest to drop there lines back out. Just as soon as the bait hit the bottom Ö Bang Ö Bang Ö We had a double header on, two anglers fighting two big fish on two separate rods. Wow, what an exciting moment that was! After twenty minutes of pure belly busting, smash mouth, gut wrenching, reel stripping fight we boated the two biggest mutton snapper Iíve ever seen or heard of in my life. We beat the storm to the dock and the mutton snappers weighed in a 37 and a 37 1/2 pounds respectively.

We are in the middle of the best two months, May and June, to catch mutton snapper. We are in the best place in the world, according to Saltwater Sportsman Magazine, to fish the mutton snapper. So, I suggest you give me or any other of the excellent Ambergris fishing guides a call and book your next fishing trip to experience the fish that Ambergris Caye is famous for.

Captain Dilzon Murcia is the project manager for Island Ferry and owner operator of Dilzon Charters, a sport fishing charter business. To catch the fish featured this week, and other large fish, call Dilzon at 620-6118 or drop by the Island Ferry office and schedule your next fishing adventure.

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