They are in our area again, and the tripletails are a welcome addition to most any angler’s cooler. Not only are the tripletails in the gulf and in Big Lake in Louisiana, but the redfish and speckled trout are showing up. The reds and specks are being taken mostly on live bait.
The tripletails are called that because their dorsal and anal fins extend back nearly as far as their tail does. This gives them an appearance of having three tails. These fish are super great on the table, but there are a good number of anglers that have never caught one or enjoyed them as table fare. In fact, there are plenty of our fellow fisherman that have never seen one except in photographs.
Back several years ago when there was legal seining on the beach during the summertime, these fish were taken in good numbers. The commercial seiners would sell practically all of the edible fish that were caught. They would rarely sell the tripletails. Those were retained for home consumption. The old timers called them rock fish.
Should you be heading out into the gulf, there is great anticipation of locating some super size speckled trout at the short rigs. Keep in mind there are other fish around, and keep a good lookout for floating seaweed or any other floating object including boards, drums and such. These are the places that attract the tripletails. They will hang around these floating objects, feeding upon small fish or shrimp attracted to that same type of structure. Whenever you spot a tripletail, and they are visible, many times they will appear to be just some more floating debris. They tend to lie on their side while they are in search of a morsel to feed on.
Whenever one is hooked, it will do the same thing, and that makes them a real battler. Whenever a fish is nearly as wide as it is long and does that sunfish tactic and it weighs several pounds, the battle will be on.
The Texas tripletail limit is now three per day per angler with a 17-inch minimum length. The Texas rod and reel record tripletail was 33.60 pounds. It was caught in Matagorda Bay in 1984 by Edie Pruitt. It was 34 inches long.
So what type of fishing equipment is best when going after the tripletails? I realize that they might not be the primary target since there is a three fish limit. No matter; take along some fishing tackle that is versatile enough to work well on speckled trout and also tripletail. The tackle that most speck anglers use will do fine for catching tripletails. There is, however, the opportunity to use some lighter fishing tackle. Since these fish choose to be in open water, lighter action rods and line will do fine. Even the fly rod enthusiasts might do well when going after tripletails. My choice for catching them is a medium-action spinning rig with a fast taper rod. The lighter tip will allow me to cast smaller lures at greater distances and with more accuracy. It is important to place your lure or bait where the tripletail will locate it quickly.
As with most saltwater fishing, the live shrimp will take the tripletail. A good method to use them is to free line the bait with only a small split shot attached. I like to use a small treble hook when I’m using the free shrimp technique. By simply casting up current and allowing the bait to drift into the strike zone, the fish will take the bait quickly. The smaller shrimp seem to entice faster action than the larger ones.
For lures, the lead-head jigs in the 1/8 or 1/16-ounce size with a wiggle tail plastic is a good choice. Even with these small jigs, it is best to choose one with a steel hook. The tripletails are strong enough to straighten out a wire hook if too much pressure is applied.
There could be other floating-structure fish that are also in the area. Dorado are one of these. The small ones are called chicken dolphin. The larger ones are called bull dolphin. When you go out fishing next time, give the structures a try.