Capt. Ethan Hamrick
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Tripletail are one of the coolest fish an angler can target. These prehistoric looking fish can be found anywhere from Massachusetts down to Florida and to Texas along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The tripletail got its name because of its three rounded tail-like fins, including the anal, dorsal and caudal. These fish can be caught both inshore and offshore.

They aren’t targeted as much as other species by most anglers. However, tripletail are a super fun fish to catch and excellent table fare. In this article, I’ll share some tips about the best ways to catch this awesome fish!

Where to Target Tripletail

When anglers target tripletail, they want to look for structure located in water deeper than 8 feet. This structure can be floating or secure on the bottom and can be found inshore or offshore. Anglers should look for

  • Channel markers
  • Poles
  • Crab trap buoys
  • Any type of floating cover (logs, grass, and other debris)

All of these are excellent places to fish for tripletail. They use this structure as protection and as a place to ambush prey. They eat small fish, crustations and other forms of food that pass by the cover they are holding on to.

Best Baits/Lures for Tripletail

Anglers can target tripletail with both artificial lures and live bait. Both work great, but there are a few of each that stand out and produce more bites than others.

My three favorite live baits for tripletail include:

  • Greenbacks
  • Threadfins
  • Shrimp

Using any of these live baits is surefire way to get even the most finicky tripletail to bite.

When it comes to artificial lures my top three favorites include:

  • DOA Shrimp
  • Gulp Jerk Shad on 3/0 EWG weighted hook
  • DOA C.A.L Swimbait on ¼ oz. jig head

My favorite color for artificial lures is white, but chartreuse, orange, and shad patterns also work well for tripletail.

Best Tackle for Tripletail

When targeting tripletail, anglers can use the same rod and reel setups they use for any inshore species. A 7’ medium to medium heavy spinning rod paired to a 3000-4000 sized reel with get the job done. I like using 20-pound braided line and a 30 pound leader when tripletail fishing.

When rigging live baits for tripletail, I rig them one of two ways. On a 1/0 circle, about 3-4 feet below a popping cork. Or on a 1/0 circle hook with a couple of split shot sinkers 12 inches above the hook.

I always start with the popping cork rig, because if the fish are suspending higher on the structure I’m fishing around, they will likely strike a bait higher in the water column. However, if I’m unsuccessful with a cork, I’ll try my other rig with sinkers to allow my live bait to reach fish that might be closer to the bottom. 

Additional Tips

Always watch your cork

If fishing with a live bait under a cork for tripletail, anglers must always be on alert. You may think that if the cork is not under a fish hasn’t struck the bait yet, however, tripletail will oftentimes inhale a bait and just sit there with it for several seconds before moving. When this happens, the cork might barely move or go under just a little bit. Any sudden movement of the cork can be an indication that a fish has eaten the bait.

Keep a sharp lookout for “floating” fish

Tripletail will often suspend just beneath the surface and “float” near the structure they are handing around. This makes them visible to anglers from a good distance away and allows anglers to sight fish tripletail, which is one of the most exciting ways to catch a fish.

Anglers should keep a sharp eye out for “floating” fish when targeting tripletail. Many anglers simply ride their boat by a set of poles, channel markers, or other structure, just looking for tripletail near the surface. Anglers can ride fairly close to the structure, as tripletail don’t spook too easily and will often return quickly to the cover if spooked.

If anglers see one “floating”, they turn around and fish for it. If not, they keep moving. That’s often one of the best ways to cover water and maximize the number of bites when tripletail fishing.

Accurate casting is key

It’s also important for anglers to accurately present their bait or lure when tripletail fishing. Tripletail are often position a certain direction or holding tight to a small piece of cover. Plus, wind and current can are a factor in what direction your bait will drift. This can make it somewhat difficult to present a bait just right.

I like to cast my bait or lure up current and allow it to float right by the structure I’m fishing. I do my best to keep the bait in the strike zone for as long as possible before it drifts away from the cover and another cast is required.

Tripletail are excellent table fare

Although 99% of the time, I am a catch and release fisherman, I have kept a tripletail or two on occasion. They are delicious and make a great meal after a long day on the water. They have nice, white fillets that taste great no matter how they are prepared. However, I prefer to grill or bake tripletail when I keep one. 

Back to you

Tripletail fishing is a ton of fun and something I recommend every angler should experience at some point. It’s a technique that many anglers aren’t familiar with, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. These fish fight hard, are a very unique and cool-looking fish, and make a delicious meal. 

Keep these tripletail catching tips in mind if you ever find yourself wanting to target this awesome fish. Hopefully they’ll help you put a few tripletail in the boat! As always, happy fishing, and keep your hooks wet!


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