Pro Tips: How to Catch Tripletail this Fall

Written by: Capt. Rick Grassett, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters

These distinct-looking fish are the only known members of the family Lobotidae
All photos by Capt. Rick Grassett

As fall descends on southern Florida, various migratory fish species return to our coastal waters, having spent the summer in colder areas farther north. One of my favorite opportunities during this time of year is sight-fishing for tripletail. This rather unique species is very well-suited to fly angling, ranging in size from 2 to 20 pounds, and found close to shore in good numbers on both the Atlantic and the Gulf coasts. Tripletail behave a bit differently from other game fish, so here are some tips on where to find them, how to approach them, and what gear to use. 

Using a gripping tool helps to avoid their sharp teeth

1. Finding the Fish

These fish are mostly ambush predators, and will spend hours floating motionless near the surface, usually in the shadow of something they can use for camouflage. Look for tripletail on calm, sunny days around channel markers, buoys, or along crab-trap lines, hanging out with their noses pressed tight up against the foam floats.

Choose a row of floats, and begin moving parallel to it, maintaining a distance of about 30 feet in order to avoid spooking fish. Try to keep the sun at your back to maximize visibility as you proceed down the line. If you’re not seeing any tripletail, move to a different line of floats. Crab-trap rows correspond to different bottom contours, so changing rows helps you to explore different depths until you find the right zone.   

2. Making Your Approach

Once you’ve found a tripletail, the best strategy is to travel a few yards beyond it, then turn and carefully approach from the downwind/downcurrent side. Moving against the wind and/or current will give you more control over your boat or kayak, and more time to set up and make the cast. A bow-mounted leaning post is great for this type of fishing. 

Clockwise from upper left: a tripletail nosing into a crab buoy; a fly of Capt. Rick’s own design called the Grassett Flats Minnow; and the end result below.

3. Tripletail Gear

Tripletail are strong fighters with tough mouths that require equally-strong tackle, capable of dragging them away from obstructions and into open water. I typically use a 7- to 9-weight rod, with floating line and a stout leader with no less than 20-pound tippet. It’s also important to use flies with weed guards to help prevent snagging crab-trap lines. I do well with lightly-weighted baitfish or shrimp patterns on a size 2-4 hook, such as my Grassett Flats Minnow.

Capt. Rick Grassett is owner/operator of SnookFinAddict, a partner of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters in Siesta Key, Florida

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