How to Catch Tripletail on Nearshore Crab Buoys

By Debbie Hanson

Aug 17, 2020

Key tips on how to catch tripletail for beginners, including best rig for tripletail when fishing crab trap buoys, best way to catch tripletail, time of year

Tripletail may be one of the strangest-looking pelagic fish in the Atlantic, but if you get the opportunity to target this saltwater species off the coast of Texas or Florida, don’t miss out.

Learning how to catch tripletail can be an exhilarating experience. Not only are tripletail a challenging sportfish, they make an exceptionally tasty meal. You'll want to follow a few important tripletail fishing tips for your best chance of success.

Helpful Tips on the Best Way to Catch Tripletail

  1. Consider the time of year. Florida's stone crab season opens in October, for example. Which is an important fact to know when saltwater fishing for tripletail. Fish will start appearing around nearshore crab trap buoys when they are put out into the water for stone crab season.
  2. Know where to look. In the Gulf of Mexico, adult tripletail will most often be out in open water near the crab trap buoys, structure or any type of floating object. Since tripletail like to position themselves close to the surface of the water, keep a sharp eye out for dark objects that resemble a dead leaf floating near the surface.
  3. Use a stealthy approach. Since the tripletail is a particularly skittish species, learn how to catch fish using the trolling motor on your boat so that you can quietly get within casting distance when fishing near the crab buoys.
  4. Know the best rig for tripletail. A live shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook rigged on a short (no longer than 15-inches) fluorocarbon leader beneath a popping cork is the most effective tackle set-up to use, but keep in mind that this species will also take artificial baits and are a blast to catch on a fly rod using crab or shrimp-imitating flies.
  5. Properly place your bait. The best way to catch tripletail is to cast your rig past the fish and slowly reel it into the strike zone. If your bait lands right smack in front of the tripletail's face, the fish is likely to dive deep or move off of the structure. When the tripletail bites, give it to a count of about 4 or 5 to make sure the fish is actually eating your bait before reeling down to set the circle hook. One of the keys to learning how to catch tripletail is making sure that they have actually taken your bait and that the hook is set well because they have small, hard mouths.
  6. Be prepared for hard runs and erratic jumps. These behaviors can be a particular challenge when fishing near structure or crab buoys. Pay attention to your line so that you don't get wrapped around structure, and keep steady pressure on the fish. Make sure your drag is adjusted properly and take your time bringing the fish to the boat.
  7. Use a landing net once the fish is boatside and have a pair of pliers ready to remove the hook.

The tripletail is one of the best eating saltwater fish. In other words, the reward won't end once you bring a tripletail to your boat. A tripletail fillet makes for an excellent dinner of light, white, flaky fish since this species feeds primarily on crustaceans like shrimp and crabs.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.