Big Bend Florida
Ever Caught a Trippletail?
By Capt Ken Roy
For most folks, the answer is no. For some others,
if you ask a few questions, you will find out that they have caught
maybe one or two--by accident. Then, there are guys who target
Tripletails on a regular basis.
Tripletails are often well camouflaged and they have
the ability to change color to match their surroundings. The most
striking example of their ability to change color that I can remember
was the coloration of two Tripletails lying in or on a large clear
plastic bag off Fort Pierce. They were just about the color of the
bag. Sometimes they are difficult to spot. Free swimming Tripletails,
out in open water, are often mistaken for a patch of floating grass. I
miss them occasionally even when I am specifically looking for them. I
tell folks to look for an old greasy rag that seems to hold position
in the current near a buoy or piling. There are exceptions, even
common exceptions, with fish that appear gold, white, black or copper.
Tripletails are easy to hook---if you can find them.
I’ve caught them in 2’ of water and in 2000’. When they are inshore on
this coast, I expect to find them most often hanging around crab traps
in 8-20’ or so. Some channel markers hold fish too with some channel
markers being far more productive than others. If you find a few
Tripletails around a channel marker, store it in your memory bank and
look for them there at a later date. Some buoys attract fish in the
incoming tide and others on the outgoing, more data for your memory
bank or log book.
Tripletails are tough to land because they are
extremely strong fighters and are most often hooked around pilings,
buoys, crab traps and even FADS deployed to attract Tripletails and
Cobia. I strongly doubt that a Trippletail has enough sense to run
around a piling or crab trap line to cut you off. They often get lucky
and foul the line because they change directions often and sometimes
pull twenty or thirty yards of line against the drag.
Tripletails eat just about anything that will fit in
their mouth. They hang along side buoys and traps eating any small
critter that happen by. They are dash and crash feeders. They can
cover 2 feet in the blink of an eye to capture a fish, crab or shrimp.
Tripletails have a strong affection for shrimp and live is best. Small
crabs and baitfish work fine too.
As in most fishing situations, if there are several
Tripletails in one spot, they are far easier to catch. Competition
becomes a real ally for the fisherman and proves the downfall of the
fish. Single fish are sometimes finicky.
Small jigs work well for Tripletails. Shad tails and
twin tail grubs work well for me with bright colors attracting more
fish but sometimes being refused at the last moment. A twin tail grub
in root beer/ gold flake, clear/ gold flake or clear/ silver flake are
usually eaten on sight. When you find a reluctant Trippletail, a
simple hair jig with a small tip of cut bait or shrimp often gets bit.
A live shrimp or small crab is seldom refused if it comes close to the
Tripletails take crab or shrimp imitating flies
readily. In fact, Tripletails may be the easiest of all saltwater fish
to catch on a fly. A Clouser minnow in a dark shrimp-imitating pattern
catches Tripletails better than any other artificial. When a
Trippletail follows the Clouser without taking, let the fly sink. Lots
of times the Trippletail will follow the fly all the way down and eat
it right off the bottom.
On a cloudy day, when Tripletails are hard to spot
or not showing on the surface, a small weighted spinner with a single
hook and a little bait will often catch fish that you’d never see
otherwise. Tripletails are one of our better table fish, easy to catch
and great fighters.
What more can you ask for in a fish?