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Tripletail Hunting - Fishing for Tripletail

If You Can Find Them - You Can Catch them

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Photo © Ron Brooks

Quinn Barnett Casts to Tripletail

Photo © Ron Brooks

Some Basic Information

Similar to hunting for game, fishing for tripletail in the late summer is a matter of getting to where they live. If you can get to the places they frequent, you are likely to find one or more, and late summer is the time for some big ones along the southeast US coast.

Tripletails are unusual fish that are somewhat mysterious in their ways. Studies are just now being made in several states to learn more about these hard fighting, good eating fish.

The population off the Georgia barrier island beaches in the summer is apparently a breeding population. The speculation is that they congregate – school would not be a correct term, since they are basically loner type of fish – to spawn in the warm ocean waters just off the beach.

During the early summer, you can find them from the beach up to a mile off the beach, floating on their side on the surface. They seem to float along waiting for baitfish to seek shelter from the sun under their shadow. It remains to be seen whether that is truly the case.

In late summer, the larger members of the species can be found around almost any structure, from a single pole marker, to shipping channel buoys, to almost any kind of flotsam in the water.

Where we Fished

We fished off the Georgia coast in the late summer in one of the several inlets between the barrier islands. Large shipping channel buoys marked the channel edges out to about a mile offshore – far enough to get bigger vessels beyond the ever shifting sandbars. We fished with Captain Larry Crews from Offshore Charters on Jekyll Island, Georgia. He specializes in taking anglers out for different and unusual fishing experiences, and hunting for tripletail is not your normal fishing experience.

The shipping channel buoys are held in place by a large chain securely attached to heavy concrete on the bottom. The fish like to hover in the water column close to that chain, sometimes near the surface and sometimes half way down the thirty foot depth. It is under and around these buoys that we planned to catch tripletail.

When we Fished

The waters in this area are subject to some tidal differences of up to nine feet between high and low tide. That necessarily means some very swift tidal currents between the tidal extremes in the inlets. We were looking for some slack water on the high tide – the time when the tide slows coming in, stops, and then starts flowing out. Basically, that means about two hours of fishing time on a good day.

The tripletails are apparently not found on or around the markers except during this slack tide period. At least they aren’t caught any other time. Perhaps they are there all the time and the slack tide is the only time a bait looks right to them. We don’t; know. But we do know that they will eat at slack tide.

How we Fished

It takes at least two anglers to fish with this method. One runs the boat and one fishes. The idea is to approach a marker, cast you bait up current from the marker or buoy and allow it to drift down into and around the buoy. Believe me, if the fish is there, he will eat your bait.

Once hooked, these fish have to be pulled from the marker to avoid getting tangled and cut off in the chain. That’s the job of the person running the boat. One fishes; one runs the boat.

The Bait

Live shrimp is the absolute preferred bait. Yes, they can be caught on artificials. Yes, they can be caught on fly. But for the best shot at a huge ‘trip’, you need live shrimp.

We fished the live shrimp under a slip float that we could adjust from three down to twenty feet deep. Slip floats utilize a stop knot on the line and allow easy casting while providing fishing at any depth.

We hooked the live shrimp in the head, taking care not to hit the dark spot that marks the shrimp’s brain. This allows the shrimp to kick and swim in a natural fashion.

The Tackle

We used medium weight bait casting rods and reels spooled with thirty pound braided line. The braid does not stretch, and permits us to drag the fish away from the chain when hooked.

Terminal tackle consisted of the slip float, a fluorocarbon leader, and either a circle or kayle 2/0 hook . The small hook makes for a more real presentation. The circle or kayle hook lets the fish hook himself.

The Results

We hooked two fish and saw two others that would not eat on this particular trip. One of the two we hooked came unbuttoned after rolling on the surface a couple of times. The other was a big fish – we estimate close to twenty pounds – that broke off when the braided line buried into the spool. On a drag set too tight, which I think was the case on this fish, the braid will bury itself into the spool. At that point, you are tied directly to the fish with no drag. When this fish took off in the other direction, the leader parted and we lost him.

The pictures, from a previous trip, show just how big these tripletails can grow. The method is simple, and if you have a boat, the locations are easy to find. And, if you just want someone to help you do it, give Captain Crews a call. He will take you to the fish!

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