Giant triple tail

Historically, late May and early June is the go-to time for our better inland saltwater fishing. The Sabine Jetty as well as the surf should also be included in that. Yes, there are good umbers of fish around practically all year long, but the action goes from good to excellent now. Sheepshead, black drum and redfish along with a few outsize speckled trout and flounder were the rule. Now all of the above along with many other species have arrived. Big schools of sand trout, croaker, Spanish mackerel, sharks and the popular triple tails will all be around for local anglers to do battle with. Both boaters and bank fishermen can look forward to enjoying the action.

June is usually when the aforementioned triple tails invade our local surf as well as the inland lakes in Louisiana. These fish have a distinct appearance, and that’s how they got their name. The dorsal and anal fins go back to nearly the same length as their tail, thus the triple tail.

Only a few years back, there was no regulations on the harvest number or the size for retaining these fish. That is not the case anymore. There is a three fish per angler limit as well as a 17-inch minimum length now enforced. The recorded Texas state record triple tail weighs 33.50 pound and was 34 inches long. It was caught in June 1984 by Eddie Porter in Matagorda Bay. Most of the triple tails landed locally are between 19-20 inches long, with some somewhat longer.

The triple tail is a really super table fish and they are unique battlers. These fish will spend most of their time around almost any type of structure. Floating patches of seaweed, wood and debris, as well as buoys are great places to look for these fish. Shrimp, small crabs and whatever lives in and around the debris is their food source. These fish will lie on the surface on their sides, making them visible to anglers. They are mottled in color and they will many times appear to be black, much as a piece of floating plastic.

I recommend using either live shrimp or a small lead head jig that resembles a shrimp. Even small feather jigs will work well. For easier casting, a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce silver spoon with a bucktail will take the odd looking fish.

Several years ago when beach seining was legal, many various fish species were caught at times. Both sport seiners and commercial seiners would enjoy the harvest of the sea. So would the folks that dined at seafood restaurants. The one fish that neither sport nor commercial fishermen would part with was the prize of the table, the triple tail. These fish were the ones that would grace their own tables. By the way, at that time the local name for the triple tail was rock fish.

I had mentioned earlier that the triple tail preferred small shrimp, crabs, or what ever else lived in the floating seaweed or debris. That does make the live bait or smaller lures more productive. Small in this case doesn’t not mean tender. Whatever type of offering you use, it should be high quality and strong. The use of wire hooks will result in just as many strikes as the steel hooks, but fewer fish in the cooler.

The triple tails do not show up around here until the waters begin to warm. That might be the reason why for lots of years few anglers would actually head out after them. It was simply a lack of knowledge about their habits. With the new breed of anglers around, many of them, no matter what their primary quarry is, make sure to check any likely places around for the triple tail.

Remember to look for what appears to be a floating piece of plastic or dark wood that’s near structure or seaweed. Next get into easy casing range and cast your offering out ahead of the fish. When the bait or lure gets near enough, it will disappear and the battle will be on. These fish will turn their side to you, and that makes it a much tougher battle to land it. They fight just like a bluegill does in freshwater.

The flesh may be prepared much as other fish filets are. I have not found any cooking method that is not just super. Treat these fish as the prize that they are. Once you get into the triple tail fishing, you’ll try it time and again.


Tune in to KSET 1300 at 6 p.m. on Thursdays for Billy Halfin Outdoors and listen to The updates daily at 7:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.