OUTDOOR CORNER: Going after the Tripletail – a fish with three tails

Lyle Johnson
Randy Ingram shows a tripletail caught on live shrimp fishing with Captain Greg in Lake Borne.

Tripletail! Seems like sort of an odd name for a fish but it’s one I’ve heard of over the years around charter fishing, although not very often.

For the past few years it seems like the fish has been in the fishing reports all over the Internet and newspapers as well in south Louisiana.

So what’s up with this new fish? I asked one of the professionals in the sport, Captain Greg Schlumbrecht, for his thoughts as to why they might be showing up in greater numbers in the past few years, especially around Lakes Ponchatrain and Borne.

“Lyle, the tripletail have been increasing in our area since Hurricane Katrina.” Schlumbrecht then added, “I don’t know if it’s because of the saltwater that moved in during the storm but something caused them to come in like we’ve never seen before.”

So I thought about taking a look at the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association fish records to see if the time frame of when the fish were caught might corroborate this phenomenon. According to the records a 39.5 pounder, the largest in our state, was caught by Mrs. Bobby Toups in 1959. No more record fish were caught past 1977 until the 7th place fish was caught in 2003 and the 10th spot in 2006. So the records seem to point to the cycle that’s on the upward swing, much to the joy of the anglers that target the bounty of tripletails that are now migrating to our inside bays and lakes.

So, how did these fish get the name? Their body is just about as tall as it is long and it’s dorsal and anal fins extend nearly to the tail giving it the appearance of having three tails. Looks sort of like a souped up goggle-eye, if you know what I mean. Although they can grow over 40 pounds, the ones that have been caught recently range from 15 pounds and under.

These fish love to lazily hang around “stuff” that’s near the surface on their side and ambush their prey as they come swimming by. Out in the gulf, any debris could be a spot to check out as you ride by to see if one might be hanging around.

In the bays and lakes, any pilings, buoys and even grass would be a place where you might find one looking for a meal. Captain Greg lets one of the best spots out of the bag; “Crab trap floaters are the best places to find triple tail. Not because they like them better that something else out there, but there’s just so many of them.” Schlumbrecht also states, “Just get on a crab pot line and you can look at 30 to 100 targets in a short time and sometimes there’s more than one to a spot.”

Live shrimp is the bait of choice for most tripletail anglers but artificials will work also. “The fish don’t spook easily, so just cast a few feet above the fish and let the bait free line so it will come back to the fish,” says Captain Greg, “But that’s where their laid back ways end. The strike is vicious and it will test your speckled trout tackle to its limit because they put up a great fight.”

As table fare they rank way up at the top and can be prepared just about any way you like. Most of them are around 10 pounds so the filets will be thick. If you’ll take them and slice the filets ½” thick they’ll work perfect on the grill, broiled in the oven, breaded and deep-fried or pan seared with some bread crumbs.

The migratory tripletail leave out of the lakes in early September and won’t be back until May or June so if you’d like to take a shot at catching some along with some specs, give Captain Greg a call at 985 960-1709 or visit

Our recent legislative session produced some new boating regulations that will affect recreational boaters and go into will go into effect on Aug. 15, 2009 including new regulations on personal flotation devices (PFD’s) aka life jackets.

Anyone 16 years of age or younger, onboard a vessel less than 26 feet, will now be required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD while the vessel is underway. The law previously stated that anyone under 12 was required to wear a PFD.

There are some new regulations concerning penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) now that includes the suspension or revocation of boating privileges when a person loses driving privileges due to suspension or revocation of their driver's license due to a DWI or DWI refusal whether the offense took place in a vehicle or a watercraft. In other words, if a person gets a DWI on the road that result in drivers’ license revocation, that individual won’t be allowed to drive a boat.

The fishing is pretty hot along with the weather, so remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you!

His brother Tim Ingram with a couple of tripletails caught on live shrimp while fishing with Captain Greg.