Living Life by the Buoy

Written By: Caitlyn Gatrell

Winter fishing is nothing short of an adventure. As the cool temperatures start to creep in, some species come out to play, including the Tripletail. This tough-fighting creature is on many anglers’ bucket lists, and tons of eager fishermen target them daily during the cooler months.

If you’re not too familiar with the Tripletail, here’s a little breakdown. They got their name because of the not one, but three tails they have. This is what gives them their reputation, as their tails help them powerfully swim and fight back against predators and fishermen. They spend most of their time floating around near or offshore objects, especially buoys.

Targeting Tripletail in the winter is exciting, but it can be hard to navigate, especially for anglers with smaller flats boats. Owning a smaller flats boat, my crew and I will wait for calm conditions before we head out there because in our area, we typically have to head a couple miles out to see some Tripletail. We learned our lesson a long time ago when we tried to go out there in choppy conditions. Let’s just say during the winter, when the water is splashing on you, it is freezing!

On a calm day, we ride out for a couple of miles until we start to see a long line of buoys. Our technique is to slowly troll along them to see if we can spot any Tripletail hiding below. Once we get our eyes on a fish, we use our preferred bait of live shrimp, and cast nearby, letting it drift towards them. If there’s an outgoing or incoming tide, the drifting trick works even smoother.

As soon as we catch their attention, they aggressively lung at our bait. For the smaller ones, the battle is tough but quick. The larger ones of course put up a stronger fight, but you just have to fight strategically, avoiding tangling with objects, and keep the tension balanced. They will give you all they have as they try their best to get away. Sometimes they win, but usually even if they get away, they end up biting again. One time we even had one come back three times!

Like other smaller saltwater species, you may get them to the boat, but it can be a challenge getting them in. Tripletail have been known to shake off the hook even at the boat, so don’t celebrate until you get them in! They do have sharp gill plates, so you have to watch your fingers too. If we have one available, we’ll use a net to scoop them up. After snapping a couple photos and getting a measurement on them, we throw them back and get ready to catch the next one.

For those of you getting on the water soon, I wish you good luck! And for those who have just learned about Tripletail, I wish you tight lines the next time you try to target one!