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Tripletailing: Playing the Pot Lickers

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On: Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 9:13AM | By: Captain Ron Kowalyk

Among my entire favorite angling activities, sightfishing for tripletail has to be right up there with the most exciting and simplest. Tripletail fishing doesn’t require any fancy gear, high tone plugs, flies or livebait. Expect to burn some fuel cruising the potlines; it can be well worth it.

A medium-light action 7-ft. spinning rods matched with a 2000–3000 size, rugged, smooth drag reel are about the standard rig. 15–20 braid and a 3–4 ft. fluorocarbon leader are standard as well. Be ready to move off the crab pots and yoke your oversized saltwater “bluegill” outa the pot lines.

You’ll wanta stay well off the marker balls, say 20 yards or so, for casting as not to spook “old leaf faker” tripletails. They adopt the unusual behavior, as juvenile fish, of lying on their sides next to the crab pot buoys; the surmise is that they’re trying to appear as flotsam in this guise to avoid predators. This behavior becomes habitual and, at times, even large tripletail will lie side-up near pots, dayboards, and other floating features. If you’re stealthy in your approach once you spy trips, it’s best to get up-current and float your offering to the target. If at first your offering is ignored or rejected, remain in place and make several more presentations.

We use live shrimp on a circle hook with enough split shot to counter the current. A popping cork or float makes for the best way to keep your bait in the strike zone, usually from about a foot to 18 inches to 2 feet below the surface. Generally trips will spot a morsel several yards ahead of their lay and move off the pot to capture dinner; be patient and don’t panic if you get a false take. Reel in and cast again; it may take several casts to get a firm take. Let the trip runoff for about a two count, then reel down and set the hook; circle hooks provide the best sure shot hookups. Bring along a nice size landing net, trips can be broad and there’s always a chance a cobia will take your mini bait.

Brown or pinkish shrimp imitation flies with plastic beadchain eyes are a go-to bug; small metal beadchain options are good for stronger current days and when trips are sliding down the pot line. Scented plastics are also a good alternative; we like Gulp New Penny shrimp.

Shiners, killifish, and, at times, a smallish pinfish will work, especially on bigger trips. Some anglers use small swimming plugs, very sporty. Light chumming can be an asset as well, but generally not necessary, just a thought. If you get on a nice tripletail but it’s stubborn, mark the pot in your GPS man-overboard button. Sometimes the trips can be finicky, so don’t give up on a good specimen. Check your local regs for size and number limits. Last time I checked it was 15 inches overall length and two per day per angler; don’t bet on it as regs change every other month, maybe.

Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-9312


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