One of the advantages we have on the Upper Gulf Coast is winter comes slowly here. We’ve also experienced some severe droughts throughout this past summer and the fall, which has caused a huge infusion of salt water into many of the back bays and near-shore reefs. This infusion of salt water causes a mass migration of Florida tripletails into all the structure on which tripletails hold.
We usually catch the biggest tripletails of the year in October. My largest tripletail is 24-1/2- pounds, and the best tripletail caught by one of our clients weighed 27.1 pounds. The day before the 27.1 pounder was pulled in, one of our clients caught a 26-pound tripletail. Most years from the first of October until the middle of October, our area homes plenty of tripletails you can fish for and catch with Shore Thing Charters in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
In Mississippi where we fish out of, the limit on tripletails is three per person each day with a minimum 18-inch length limit you can keep. In Louisiana, where we sometimes fish, the limit is five per person per day with a minimum 18-inch length limit. Because we dock out of Bayou Caddy in Mississippi, we’re right on the border between Mississippi and Louisiana. So, we fish both states. All our Shore Thing Charter boats are licensed to fish in both states. When someone asks me which state I most often fish for tripletails, I answer that our boats fish both states, and there’s a lot of productive tripletail water to fish between the two states.
The rule is that if you fish in Louisiana and catch your tripletails there, then you can’t legally stop and fish for tripletails in Mississippi. You must go straight back to your Mississippi port. For instance, if you catch four tripletails in Louisiana, you’re on your way back to Mississippi, and you spot a very nice tripletail, you can’t stop and fish for that Mississippi water’s tripletail. The law says that your catch and your license must comply with each other.
Another question I’m asked is where we find the biggest tripletails, in Louisiana or Mississippi? My biggest tripletail came from Louisiana. Captain Kenny Shiyou’s biggest tripletail was caught in Mississippi about 2 miles off the beach. I took my biggest tripletail 7 miles off the beach in the middle of the Mississippi Sound, which is in Louisiana.
The most tripletails I’ve ever caught in a day was when I was fishing with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab when we took 30 tripletails in one day. On those types of trips, we catch, sample and tag the tripletails. On some of those trips, our crew catches so many tripletails that we don’t have time to count them, especially when the tripletails are in near shore, like they are this month, and we have good bait and know where to locate the tripletails.
Tripletails are unusual fish. We don’t really know where they come from, where they go, where they breed, and where they grow. But scientists all along the Gulf Coast and even on the Atlantic Coast and in Florida are tagging and releasing as many tripletails as possible to try to learn more about the tripletail’s life cycle. These fish grow fast, fight hard, are a great sportsfish and are delicious to eat. Jim Franks, a Senior Research Scientist at the lab offers information on many saltwater species.
On a good day of tripletail fishing in October, you may see a tripletail on a channel marker, just under the surface, set up to catch the fish and perhaps spot three to six other tripletails move up to the channel marker to take that fish’s place as soon as it’s caught. Then you can catch and tag all of those tripletails. Now this only happens under perfect conditions.
Here are some things we’ve learned about tripletails. They:
- like hot, really salty water.
- have the biggest push from offshore when very salty water brings these tripletails close to shore, when the southeast wind blows like it does in October.
- follow bait fish like most other species of saltwater fish. In October, generally is when this area has the biggest push of bait fish moving inshore during the year. Tripletails like white shrimp and menhaden.
- don’t leave the Upper Gulf Coast usually until two or three fairly hard cold snaps have occurred. Then they seem to vanish just as quickly as they appear.