Tripletail FADs are often seen in stone crab season, spotted around pilings, channel markers, and crab buoys. They are finer-eating fish with firm white meat, similar to grouper of snapper. They feed on bait fish and crustaceans attracted to algae on long-standing structures. Longer, grimier objects attract more algae and sea life, making them a stealthy predator.
Tripletail FADs - Captain William Toney
It is stone crab season that has me thinking about tripletail FADs. Without fail, from the spring to fall time, tripletail are spotted lazing around pilings, channel markers and crab buoys. It is a curious thing why this fish seems to float listlessly on its side looking like debris of a clump of weed. But, don't be fooled. They move fast when triggered and put up a damn solid fight with hooked on light tackle.
While it may not be widely known, to those that spend a fair amount of time fishing nearshore waters, tripletail are some of the finer eating fish in the sea. The blackfish, as they are also known, have a firm white meat that is often compared to grouper of snapper. Grouped with this two supremely good eating fish puts tripletail in the upper echelon of table fare coming from inshore waters. Fillets should be treated like sea trout, as the nice flakey meat is too delicate to go directly in the grill. With the skin left on though, they do well on the bbq. Pan seared is amazing.
The reason they are often spotted on the aforementioned objects relates to their feeding habits. They feed on bait fish and crustaceans attracted to the algae growing on long standing structure. Tripletail are well camouflaged ambush predators. By appearing motionless and resembling flotsom, their prey is drawn well within striking range. Once prey is in their strike zone, the tripletail move with lightening speed. In a flash they have a meal. This is a stealthy predator.
The longer and grimier the object, the more algae buildup on it and sea life around it. This correlates to the holding of tripletail. Often times you may only spot one fish, but the longer a buoy line or marker has been in the water, the greater the likelihood you will find multiple fish on it. Piling, markers and buoy lines that have been in the water for a long time attract more sea life and build a hardier food chain.
This affinity for floating objects, gunky crab trap rope, pilings and channel markers makes tripletail easy pickings for fishermen. You are essentially sight fishing. As you motor past an object, you take a gander and see if anything is around. If so, you cast a few times and boom, hooked up. Yes and no. After every object known to the general public has been hammered out multiple times, how many fish are going to be left for you? Not many. The picking gets slimmer and slimmer, as the season progresses. This is why having a few or several secret tripletail spots will set you up for some great feeds.
One way, perhaps the best way to assure yourself of having plenty of access to this amazing fish is to build and deploy you own tripletail FADs. You can build one any number of ways. Just make sure you go with some sort of biodegradable materials, if you can help it. There are several ways to make FADs, one of which you can see demonstrated in our video with Captain William Toney. It is very simple to make, deploy and retrieve at the end of the season.
Making tripletail FADs starts with the simple concept of creating structure that you can anchor to the bottom. On much of the Gulf Coast of Florida and on around to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, the nearshore waters are not that deep. In many places the depth drops one foot per mile. That means you may be dealing with waters that are less than ten feet. Very manageable. The key to keeping your tripletail FADs hidden from other fishermen is the sink the entire structure and the marking buoy below the surface of the water, at low tide. With that in mind, you should deploy them at low tide, so you know the correct depth. Once you have the FAD in place, all you need to do is mark it on your GPS.
The longer you let your FAD soak, the more time it will have to build up algae and sea life. If you set your FADs in the early spring, by the end of summer they should be loaded with life. When William and I set up our experiment, we left if for a month and when we returned, it did have triple tail on it. So, you can imagine how waiting several months will reap more rewards.
To learn more about the specifics of building tripletail FADs, check out Captain William Toney demonstrating how to he makes one with simple, easy to find materials. The more you want to set out, the more time and effort you will have to invest. Just get all your materials organized, load them into your boat and spend the day assembling and dropping them over board. This is fun, builds excitement and will just about guarantee catching loads of tripletail.
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