By Dawson Day
The fall weather is in full effect and with it brings lots of cold fronts, so always pay attention to the weather and be careful on choosing your fishing days. Even on days after a front the water can be choppy and dirty, making for difficult fishing conditions. When the weather does let up and you can get out on the water, the fish are hungry.
It is stone crab season here in Sarasota, which means tripletail. They are phenomenal table fair and a blast to catch.
When looking for tripletail we like to head offshore of Siesta Key beach a few miles and start heading north or south along a line of crab traps, visually searching for the fish sitting right under the buoy. When you spot one it is best to get on the upwind side of the trap and cast a variety of baits to them. They will eat an assortment of different baits including pilchards, live shrimp, and artificial baits.
Sometimes you will have to throw a couple times to them and hit that perfect cast for the bite, as they can be picky at times. A 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook paired with a 15- to 25-pound fluorocarbon leader, depending on water clarity, is your best bet.
Tripletail bag limit is two per person with a minimum size limit of 18 inches. Remember you don’t always have to keep your limit. If you are keeping some, make sure to have a good cooler full of ice to keep them fresh.
Along with the tripletail, the gag grouper will start to get very fired up with the drop in water temperature. Gag groupers can be found on an assortment of different types of bottoms, like artificial reefs and hard bottom with good structure and or a ledge. Gag groupers will prefer a live bait over a dead bait most of the time so make sure to have a live well full of baits including pinfish, pigfish, blue runners, and pilchards.
When targeting the gag grouper make sure to have heavy tackle as these fish don’t play around when they eat a bait. A strong owner circle hook paired with a 60- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 2- to 4-ounce weight will get the job done.
Gag groupers and also be targeted using large-lipped plugs trolling around the structure where you are targeting them, and be sure to match your plug with the water depth as you want the lure to be all the way at the bottom where the fish live.
When cruising for tripletail offshore, always keep an eye out for large schools of bonita crashing baits on the surface. Bonita will eat almost anything you can throw to them and they make for a very fun fight on light tackle. There is no food quality to these fish, but they do make for a great offshore bait if you can keep a few and throw them in the freezer for your next offshore fishing trip.