It’s an adventure that involves covering a lot of water
Sometimes, it’s nice to do something completely out of the norm, even when it comes to fishing. The consistency in weather patterns that we typically see along the upper Texas coast during August allows us to explore new areas and target just about any stretch of water because winds are generally light.
That said, conditions in August often are favorable for covering miles of water. I prefer to use this to my advantage to break away from my standard summertime fishing grounds and search for tripletail, both inside and outside of our estuaries and passes.
If you’re unfamiliar with tripletail, the species gets its name from the three fins it sports along its rear. The fish looks like some sort of crappie on steroids, and the three fins make it a powerful swimmer. This results in sporting fights when they’re hooked on a rod and reel.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect about the species is that it can be successfully targeted using a variety of strategies in many locations, and as table fare, it’s arguably second to none.
Tripletail can be found in bays, passes and along the beachfront in Gulf waters. They are drawn to structures, and most are caught near channel markers, buoys, well heads, platforms, weed mats and floating debris.
Data from surveys and studies from the early 2000s to present reveal that West Matagorda Bay has the highest tripletail landings in a bay or estuary, while the Sabine Pass area has the highest within the Gulf, said Josh Harper, a Texas Parks & Wildlife Coastal Fisheries biologist.
“Gill net surveys dating back to 1978 have seen the largest amount of individual tripletail caught in West Matagorda Bay, compared to the rest of the Texas Coast,” Harper said. “Galveston Bay ranks second on the list, while the most recreational landings for tripletail in the Gulf of Mexico occur just outside of Sabine Pass.”
My favorite way to pursue tripletail is to sight cast for them when they’re hanging near the surface. In clean water on a calm, sunny day, they stick out like a sore thumb. They are often found floating motionless on their sides. There’s no clear explanation about this behavior, although many biologists believe they’re trying to mimic a piece of floating debris to attract prey.
“Floating debris creates shade underneath the surface of the water, which attracts baitfish,” Harper said. “Tripletail may be using this fact to their advantage to bring their food straight to them.”
The best sight-casting action I’ve ever experienced for tripletail has taken place along the beach outside of the Sabine Jetties. The tricky thing about targeting them this way is that some of the fish you’ll encounter won’t be willing to eat. I’ve had days when every fish I chunked a lure toward would aggressively strike. I’ve also spotted more than 50 fish and had only a handful try to take the bait.
Anglers should use small lures that can be accurately cast when fishing for tripletail floating along the surface. It’s hard to beat a 3-inch Z-Man scented shrimpZ rigged on a 1/8th- or a 1/16th-ounce jig head.
Casting live shrimp rigged under a slip cork around vertical structures is the best way to catch tripletail inside upper coast bays. I’ve landed several tripletail over the years fishing around the Bolivar gas wells in Galveston Bay near the Texas City Dike.
The most tripletail I’ve ever caught in a single trip on the inside of an estuary took place on West Matagorda Bay while fishing with veteran guide Capt. Tommy Countz. We spent most of the day working channel markers and old well heads. None of the fish could be seen from the surface, and most seemed to be hanging about 5 to 6 feet down. All the tripletail we caught were holding tight to whatever type of structure we were fishing around.
Targeting tripletail is very similar to hunting. It’s an adventure that involves covering a lot of water, and any type of structure or piece of floating debris could be holding the next fish. Even something like a small plastic bag or piece of trash floating on the surface shouldn’t be overlooked. You’ll be surprised what these fish will hang around.
Take advantage of the late summer weather, and go try something new. Tripletail will provide a sporting experience that will test the skills of any angler, and pursuing them along the upper coast is just downright exciting.