Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) are also called black grunt, sleepfish and flashers. They can be found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. In the United States, they range from New England to Florida and westward to Texas. Tripletail are a pelagic species that migrate to stay in warm waters.
The name tripletail comes from the placement of their dorsal and anal fins giving them the appearance of having three tails. These fish have eyes on the top of their triangular head and come in colors ranging from gray, reddish and brown. Tripletail can grow up to 35 inches and weigh as much as 40 pounds.
This species can be found in bays, sounds and estuaries. They live around sargassum weed lines, floating debris, channel markers, crab traps and other structures. They will lay on their sides dormant. Some say they look like “brown dish rags” until prey becomes available, and then they strike. These fish are opportunistic eaters. Shrimp, crabs, menhaden, atlantic bumpers and anchovies, are their meals of choice.
The nice thing about fishing for tripletail is that the same gear for redfish and snook can be used to catch tripletail. A 3000 to 5000 reel is recommended and a fast action rod with some backbone. Fifteen-pound braid and 25 to 30-pound leader with a #1 to #2 circle hook will work just fine. Use a shrimp, crab or bait fish as bait. When these bruisers bite, hang on–they will put up a fight. Tripletail are relatively easy to spot once you know what you are looking for. Sight casting is a great way to catch these fish. This species is also the target of many fly anglers.
Tripletail have a white, flaky, meat and are considered to be excellent table fare. If you are out on your boat or kayak, don’t forget to do a visual on trap lines and markers–there may be a tripletail with your name on it.