Mutton Snapper Spawn
Mutton Snapper are a fish species that arrive in Key West waters to spawn starting with the April full moon and continuing through May and June each year. One group of Muttons comes from the inshore patch reefs and Hawk’s Channel. Another population of fish comes up from the deep reefs and wrecks offshore in 200 feet of water. The fish sometimes arrive exactly on the full moon and sometimes a couple of days later. They congregate along the outside of the main reef in large numbers, seeming to prefer either high points or gullies just outside the reef edge. Once the fish arrive, the bite will continue for several nights before tapering off.
Mutton Snapper are beautiful fish, with olive-tinted backs, red side and tail fins, and bold striping. They commonly run to 15 lbs. or more in weight. Mutton Snapper hunt the reef for baitfish, shrimp, crabs, squid, and snails. Mutton Snapper are known as harder fighters than other members of the Snapper family, and they make excellent eating fish as well. When the Mutton bite is on during the spawn, it is common for boats to catch limit after limit of the fish. The Mutton Snapper spawn brings crowds of fishermen and boats to Key West waters for the hot fishing action.