One mystery fish often over looked is the prehistoric-looking tripletail. The pelagic species is as elusive as the famed Road Runner cartoon. When you think you may have them figured out, chances are the next day will be entirely different.
However, some local captains have been cashing in on the southern movement of tripletail by checking their favorite stopping points, floating crab trap buoys.
"They come down in cycles and stay around for about a month or two," Capt. Billy Alstrom said. "They arrive in the winter on the way south to the keys."
While running crab traps and looking for tripletail this past Thursday, Alstrom had a lifetime best day of tripletail fishing, landing three fish at more than 10 pounds.
"We came up on a buoy in about 25 feet of water that had a nice one on it. My buddy caught it, his first one ever. It was about 12 pounds and 24.5 inches," Alstrom said.
"We kept looking, and the next buoy we saw another one. It looked like another 7- or 8-pound fish, so I took a cast with a small whitebait. He looked at it once and turned away. I put another cast on him that he ate."
Using like tackle with only 10-pound line and a 20-pound leader, Alstrom had more than he bargained for on the other end of his line with a fight that lasted 20 minutes.
"It was a big fish, but I had no idea how big until we got it in the boat: 24 pounds and 31.5-inches. I've never heard of one that big around here!"
That gigantic tripletail doubled Alstrom's previous best.
Much like Alstrom, Capt. Nate Weissman has been successfully targeting tripletail recently. Capt. Nate looks just below crab traps in the 25- to 35-foot range, which the tripletails like to hang on just underneath the surface.
"I run the traps until I see them," Capt. Nate said. "They seem to be more aggressive when it is sunny, but time and tide don't seem to affect the bite."
Capt. Nate also sticks to light tackle while his bait or choice is shrimp. "I use a Daiwa Procyon 2500 on a 6- to 12-pound St. Croix Mojo with 10-pound line and 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 1/0 owner circle tail hooking a shrimp."
The advantage of a tower helps Capt. Nate see the tripletail, and when he does he hits the deck to get a quieter approach on the fish. "I circle around and use the trolling motor to approach the buoy. Trips have small mouth so you have to give 'em time to get the shrimp in their mouths."
Employing the tactics, Capt. Nate also has had great days this week fishing for tripletail, which excite him as much as any other fish in the area.
They may look a little funky, but they are a delicious catch. Tripletail must be 15 inches to keep, and the daily bag limit is two fish per person.