[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he summer is in full swing, the trout bite is best early in the morning and late in the evening. Calm days with temperatures getting to triple digits are making red fishing a little uncomfortable. Midday fishing during the summer can get down right dangerous, unless you try a different approach. Fishing for triple tail along the Mississippi and Louisiana coast this month is some of the best in the world and closer than you think.
Once thought to be a “sick” or trash fish, triple tail has become one of the most sought after fish for inshore and offshore boats over the past decade. The beauty of triple tail is that they can found 100 feet off the beach all the way to 100’s of miles off the coast. Favoring floating structure:buoys, crab floats, pilings, sargassum grass, and debris, triple tail can be seen all over the gulf. Finding a tree, pallet, sunken boat for loan grass mat off shore is almost a guarantee. Many anglers(myself included) have driven past triple tail numerous times never knowing the tasty fish was right next to us. Knowing when, where and how to look for these hard fighting brutes can turn a slow day into a trip to remember in an instant. Little is known about the illusive triple tail, but some scientists know more than others. Dr. Jim Franks and Dr. Read Hendon of the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research are the foremost authorities on triple tail.
Hendon tells, “Since the program started, in 2008, we’ve received close to 3,000 tags, mostly from volunteer anglers”. Franks and Hendon track, study and observe triple tail for information on feeding, spawning, and travel patterns. “They definitely likewarm water”, says Franks, “80 degree sea surface water is ideal for seeing these fish”. Franks also tells, “From what we can tell the MS Gulf Coast is the perfect spawning/feeding grounds for triple tail”. Summer time in the northern gulf means large schools of glass minnows, red swimming crabs, pogey and shrimp. Add this to the ever so warm gulf water and you have got triple tail heaven. With so much work and data being compiled by Franks and Hendon, some of their finds are nothing short of amazing. “We were growing them in our lab before Katrina”, says Franks. “These fish adapt very quickly to tanks, we even got them to spawn”. Franks admits, “they grow fast and can adjust to the tanks in no time, it is an ideal fish for aquaculture” adding that “this is reason that we have continued to pursue these efforts”.
Not actually having three tails, the anal and dorsal fin of the triple tail slope back towards the tail. This unique design of the fish allows it to almost hover sideways along the surface next to floating structure. At first glance the fish appears to be a piece of trash or grass stuck to what ever is floating. However when you finally see the fish catching them is very easy and exciting.
From Pascagoula Mississippi to Lake Charles Louisiana the coast line is littered with channel markers, buoys, crab traps, grass, and oil rigs. All of the fore mentioned are havens for triple tail. To hunt for these fish is very simple simply drive by the structure with emphasis on the down current side of things. The fish will appear as piece of trash stuck to what ever is floating. Most anglers run at 20 to 30 knots and pass the structure just close enough to see under it. If you see or think you see a triple tail, double back and get set up. A good pair of polarized sunglasses and some sunshine will make the fish clear as day. Stay down wind or down current(which ever
is stronger) and get to within casting range. Don’t ever try to cast to the fish, over shoot your target and let your bait drift in front of the fish. Triple tail can get over 40 lbs so keep a rod handy stout enough to handle a big fish if need be. Most of the fish we encounter off the Mississippi gulf coast range from 4 to 20 lbs.
A medium heavy spinning rod with 30 lb. braid should be able to handle the majority of fish you will see. Rigging for triple tail is very simple: tie your braided line to a weighted cork, run a foot of fluorocarbon to a 2/0 live bait hook. The bait of choice for most anglers is live shrimp, but small minnows, juvenile crabs, and soft plastics all work. For a real treat try enticing these fish with fly rods, they pull as hard as groupers and jump like dolphin.
The triple tail is somewhat of a perfect fish. They are easy to catch, they fight extremely hard and they are delicious and one of the reasons the two have fought for limits on triple tail. Franks and Hendon were instrumental in the recent management regulations to protect the fish that many anglers so cherish. Franks tells, “the decision by the State of Mississippi to regulate these fish is a great move for conservation of this fishery”. As of 2012 a bag and size limit was applied to the harvest of triple tail (3 per person and 20” total length). With most anglers now embracing conservation, a few for the dinner table are all most anglers keep. So, when the temperature rises and the sweat starts dripping, why not give triple tail a try. You get a nice breeze, get to see a lot of water and maybe even one of the most interesting fish that swims. As always, have fun and be safe.