Fish Facts: Tripletail

Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) reach a maximum size of 40 pounds although the average size is much smaller. Tripletail, as the name implies, have a body that appears to have three tails. This is actually just the anal and dorsal fins. Tripletail are common in the Gulf of Mexico but are a species that gets little fishing pressure. Most tripletail are caught as an incedental catch by anglers targeting lemon fish or sometime snapper fisherman if they happen to be in the right place at the right time and stay alert.

Tripletail are a curious fish. The are like a mixture of other fish looks and habits. They have the general appearance of a large crappie in body shape, yet have the coloration of a google-eye(warmouth) or a rockbass. Their habits appear to be taken from other fish as well.

They swim/float on their side just like a flounder. But they are truely a surface fish, lounging around like a gar. And thats exactly what they do, float around under some sort of floating structure such as sargasmo weed or any trash just waiting for some small fish to come along. Not knowing that the tripletail is a fish and not floating debris, once the small fish, shrimp or crab come close enough the tripletail strikes quickly. This behavior is exactly what gar do.

For years many people wouldn’t eat a tripletail if they caught one because they thought that the fish was sick due to its habit of floating near the surface on its side. Tripletail however have some of the best tasting meat of any fish that swims.

Tripletail also go by the name of black fish in some areas. If you happen to catch one you should take precautions when handling one. They have teeth and all of their fins are capable of inflicting serious stab wounds. Its not even safe to grab them by the gills due to the fact that their gill flap is sharp as a knife. It is best to net them with a landing net and deposit them straight into an icechest.

Key Notes and Tips:

  • Tripletail feed on smaller fish, shrimp and crabs.
  • Cobia fisherman sometimes catch tripletail when they spot the fish lounging below bouys or trash that the fisherman was hopeing held cobia.
  • Tripletail can be quite shy and slow to strike so slow sinking jigs or bait below a cork are the best baits for triplestails.