How to Catch Tripletail

Few fish come as close to the delicacy of tripletail. In fact, when many anglers see a tripletail, the sport of catching them it is the last thing on their mind! What they want is to land a big, delicious fish for the dinner table. On the other side of things however, is the fact that tripletail are also excellent sport.


When hooked, these large fish can really pull, and only do so for pretty short runs. At a common size of 10 pounds and above, this makes for an extremely fun fish to catch. The tripletail also has a relatively small mouth for its very large body, making it an excellent candidate for fly fishing.

When to Find Tripletail

The tripletail is one of those fish that fishermen and scientists haven’t really figured out completely, but we do know quite a bit about them. They generally spend a large amount of their time close to shore between the months of March and November, where they can be found nearshore, within the inlets, and well inside the estuaries, bays and lagoons. In the winter, most of the fish either move offshore to seek stable water temperatures, or move further south. Being a fish that loves warm water, fishermen in south Florida can enjoy tripletail essentially year round.

Where to Catch Tripletail

Where ever they are found, tripletail are usually associated with structure. This isn’t always the case, as many of them are spotted just floating out in the middle of nowhere, but it is in the majority of cases. Inshore, the fish can be seen floating next to channel markers, crab trap buoys, bridge pilings, and any other hard or manmade structure near relatively deep water. Offshore, the same structure-loving behavior applies, but most of the structure will be floating. Look for them near floating sargassum weed or floating debris such as wooden pallets, branches, or coconuts.

Tackle for Tripletail

Reaching up to 40 pounds, tripletail are relatively large fish, requiring some heavy tackle. On top of their size, tripletail have razor sharp gill plates on their gill covers, which will slice right through thin line, which adds to the necessity of heavy tackle. When hooked, they generally make some very hard runs, and although short-lived, can be more than enough tension to break thin line if not appropriately handled.

Spinning Tackle for Tripletail

In general, you want to use medium tackle capable of holding 15-to-20 pound line. The leader you will use will be much heavier because of those sharp gill plates mentioned above, but using line in this weight class should be plenty to pull up the majority of the tripletail out there. For the rod, use one with a strong backbone and fast action, as this will give you more sensitivity for feeling the subtle bite, as well as the quick hook-setting ability you will need before the fish spits the hook out.

Spinning rods for catching tripletail.

Conventional Tackle for Tripletail

Conventional tackle is very beneficial for tripletail fishing, because these fish are almost always near structure. The reason conventional tackle is good in this situation is that it has greater leverage over spinning tackle, which allows you to turn the fish more easily, preventing it from running you into the structure, cutting your line. This is especially true when fishing inshore, where the structures will always be lined with sharp barnacles.

Conventional rods for tripletail fishing.

Fly-Rods for Tripletail

Two things make tripletail great for fly-fishing. For one, they have small mouths compared to their large bodies, making the size of a saltwater fly very similar to the size of prey they naturally eat. The other thing is that tripletail love crabs, and there isn’t much fancy work that needs to be done to present a crab fly – natural crabs don’t exactly display the greatest acrobatics underwater. In general, anywhere from an 8-to-10 weight fly-rod will be appropriate for catching tripletail.

Baits for Tripletail

The natural diet of tripletail includes small crabs, shrimp, and small fish such as anchovies and scaled sardines. One of the best live baits is a small live shrimp, hooked right under the horn. Small blue crabs are also extremely effective, as well as fiddler crabs. When it comes to fish, pretty much anything that is generally small – about two inches long is perfect – will catch the eye of a tripletail, including small pinfish, sardines, mojarras, or anything else you can get your hands on.

Live blue crab bait.

Lures for Tripletail

Just as live shrimp is a top choice for natural bait, an artificial shrimp is one of the best lures for catching tripletail. Many natural looking shrimp are on the market – perhaps the most famous and effective is a small D.O.A. shrimp.

DOA Shrimp for catching tripletail.

Other lures that work great are soft plastic lures mimicking anchovies, pinfish or sardines. For flies, the best flies that work are ones mimicking small blue crabs or shrimp, as these look the most realistic.

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