Tripletail love shade and current breaks
The Cape Fear area is the farthest northern range of several species of fish that love warmer waters. Tripletail are one of those favorites. They are typically found in limited numbers in South Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and are comfortable in rivers and sounds. Plus, during the summer they may ride the ocean currents northward. They arrive with the warm, summer waters in July and stay until it begins to cool.
Tripletail get their name from their large dorsal and anal fins that extend well back on the body and round out above and below the tail. At a quick glance, a tripletail appears to be a chunky fish with three tails.
The North Carolina state record is a 27-pound, 7-ounce fish caught from Oak Island’s Ocean Crest Pier in September 2009. Ocean tripletail are often larger. Most ripletail caught in the Cape Fear River typically run from 3 to 12 pounds.
Jeff and Christian Wolfe, of Seahawk Inshore Fishing Charters in Kure Beach said tripletail in the Cape Fear River feed on minnows and shrimp that are riding the current. They are attracted to floating objects and structure that extends above the water.
Try live minnows, shrimp as bait
“We like to look in the bays out of the main flow of the river for tripletail,” Jeff Wolfe said. “This is where the range markers for the ship channel are set. And tripletail are attracted to them for their shade and disrupting the current. They are also attracted to buoys marking crab pots. And there are lots of them in the bays.”
“They may be on the surface or a few feet below. But they are usually in the shade of something,” Christian Wolfe said. “We use live minnows and shrimp and suspend them under small floats to be sure they stay in the strike zone. Tripletails can be really spooky. So we only get close enough to cast and don’t cast directly at them, but a little upwind or upcurrent and let the bait drift in.”
Tripletail fight hard, sometimes making a long run but always fighting all the way to the boat. These ferocious fighters also have a soft side, and that’s their delicious white meat. They taste great grilled, fried, baked, broiled or steamed — as long as they aren’t overcooked.
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