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January 19, 2012

Great Sight-Cast Fisheries

Five pulse-pounding sight-cast spots guaranteed to rock your world, plus some reader favorites

South Georgia
Surface Surprise!

Double-digit shots at tripletail off the southern Georgia coast

When water temperatures warm to the mid60s each spring, a special type of fever afflicts my household. For lack of a formal diagnosis, let’s call it tripletail mania. Thankfully, this illness is confined to south coastal Georgia — or else it could spread with frightening consequences.

Tripletail flock to the shallow waters off Jekyll Island, Georgia, generally from April through July. But they don’t visit the usual haunts like crab pots, buoys or markers. They rise — at nonspecific times — and lie flat at the surface, where cautious anglers can see them and cast live baits.

Some days, anglers spot more than 60 fish — ranging in size from a pound or two to more than 20 — cast to half of those and catch perhaps half again. Capt. Greg Hildreth sight-fishes these tripletail each season, finding them close to the beach on high tide and as far as two to three miles out on the low.

His tackle: 7-foot All-Star ASR redfish or Penn Legion rods with Penn Battle 2000 reels, 20-pound SpiderWire Invisibraid and 25-pound Stren fluorocarbon leader in the tannic color. He rigs a live shrimp on a Mustad No. 4 Kahle hook about 15 inches below a Pradco Paradise Popper float. Anglers are maneuvered to intercept swimming fish, and cast ahead and past the school, gently reeling the bait to the fish.

Georgia anglers may keep two tripletail a day that measure more than 18 inches. But Hildreth and others frequently tag and release fish for the state’s Coastal Resources Division. Conventional- and sonic-tagging studies have found that Georgia’s spring and summer tripletail winter in Florida, as far south as Jupiter Inlet. One fish, caught and sonic-tagged near Savannah in 2010, also returned to the same estuary the following year.

A two-year study focusing ­specifically on the Jekyll tripletail revealed that those fish are not actively spawning while off the beach. However, many showed signs that they might be in a prespawn or temporary-staging phase.

The research has not yet provided Georgia with ­abundant data, though Hildreth and others say they’ve seen fewer tripletail during the past two seasons. Cold winters might have affected the species throughout its range. Still other anglers theorize the fish just might be catching on — not what tripletail maniacs want to hear, especially when the fever strikes. — Chris Woodward

The Skinny

Location: Jekyll Island, Georgia
Prime Time: May and June
Tackle: 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rods, reels spooled with 20-pound braid, 25-pound leader, popping corks/floats, Kahle hooks and live shrimp, D.O.A.s or Gulp! shrimp


Capt. Greg Hildreth
St. Simons Island, Georgia

Capt. Jay Childers
St. Simons Island, Georgia

Capt. Mike Duckworth
St. Simons Island, Georgia

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