What's Biting Report: Have You Spotted the Tripletail or Blackfish?
One of the most prized fish that inhabits the Gulf Coast could be lingering around a channel marker or crab trap float near you.
When the water warms up along the Alabama coast, the species of fish known as tripletail or blackfish migrate into the
inshore waters and look for hiding places with just a little shade.
Channel markers, buoys, crab trap floats, or any other flotsam can provide a haven for the fish that can range in size from a few pounds to the monster of a fish that stands as the Alabama state record – a 37-pound, 5-ounce fish caught in 1976 near Bayou La Batre.
Many of the tripletail caught these days range from 7-8 pounds all the way to the upper 20s. Anything larger than 20 pounds is considered a trophy fish.
While many anglers who target tripletails will go from one spot to the other looking for fish on the surface, Orange Beach inshore guide Jeff Chambliss (251-979-1209) will take a chance on catching a fish that is lurking a little deeper around the channel markers.
“Live shrimp underneath a slip cork is my preferred method of fishing for tripletail,” Chambliss said. “I'll go up to a piling and drop the bait and let it sink down about 6 feet. I'll then run the bait down the other side of the piling. If I don't get a bite, I'll pick up and move to the next spot.
“Every once in a while, you'll see one just swimming along, but most of the time, you'll see them around crab floats. They won't go up and down the rope like they do a piling. They stay under the float.”
Of course, live shrimp isn't the only bait that will work on tripletail. I've seen them hit live and cut menhaden (pogies), live finger mullet and live croakers.
Structure and proper water conditions determine whether tripletail will be hanging in certain areas along the Alabama coast.
“In Perdido Bay, we don't have them every year,” Chambliss said. “Last year, we had a good many of them early around buoys and crab traps. This year, I think that rain event we had in the spring messed them up.
“They will come inshore when the Sargassum grass moves to the shore. They don't have anything to hide under, so they move to the channel markers, crab traps, buoys, or anything floating. I caught one a couple of weeks ago on a board floating in the water. The board was about the size of a paper towel, and the fish was about three times that size. And that fish came from right here at the mouth of Orange Beach Marina. When I'm looking for tripletails, I'll check any marker or crab trap in Mobile Bay and Bon Secour Bay.”
Chambliss considers the best time to find tripletail on the surface is at the peak high tide or peak low tide. If the current slacks off, the fish will come to the surface. If the current is running hard, the fish will move down to get out of the current.
When it comes to fishing tackle, the stouter the better for tripletails. The old-timers used what were called Calcutta poles made out of large cane stalks and heavy line. A few still use Calcutta poles, but most are going to medium-heavy rods and relatively heavy line.
“You've got to be able to pull the fish away from the structure,” Chambliss said. “I'll use 20-pound test and sometimes go to 30-pound test. You've got to stick them hard to get that hook into their bony mouths. The biggest I've caught is 26 pounds. We let that one go.”
The daily bag limit in Alabama waters is three fish with an 18-inch minimum total length.
“A good day when you're tripletail fishing is two to three fish,” Chambliss said. “All you really need is one fish for dinner. And you can fix them just about any way you like. It's like a topwater grouper.”