Triple Tail – Dan Kaggelis

The warm north westerly wind barely registered as I skipped across the mirror like surface. Running parallel to the coast conditions couldn’t have been better with not a hint of swell registering and a surprisingly clean stretch of blue inshore water  below.

The urge to run wide and off the continental shelf was strong as I looked over the glassy horizon. However, today this urge would be overshadowed by a different target species, one that hadn’t graced my landing net for some years now – the Triple Tail. As a kid growing up I had caught many of these somewhat bizarre fish both on fishing line but more often in the drag net whilst chasing prawns.  Since this time they had been far and few between and the desire to feel those heavy tail beats and dogged drag burning runs was present.  There is little doubt that pound for pound the Triple Tail are one of the toughest and hardest fighting fish in the sea and would pull a barra backwards.  With three tails at their disposal it’s of little wonder they can leap as high and run as hard as they do. Fishing for Triple Tail unfortunately is not an easy task as there is little doubt that their numbers have decreased in recent years mostly due to the increase in coastal/ open water netting for barramundi. Large Triple Tail spend a lot of their time in these coastal environments and therefore are highly susceptible to this form of harvest.
Whilst numbers have declined, there are still some hot spots along the northern tropical coast where good numbers can still be found including an area just north of Port Douglas which has a reputation as being the ‘jumping cod’ (Triple Tail) capital of Queensland. This was my third trip on the hunt for these elusive fish and on previous trips I had begun to establish a small pattern based on several sightings. The most common threads were I was seeing them pretty close to shore sometimes only metres from the sand.  As expected they were always hanging around some type of floating debri, rock structure, or buoy. In past trips I had seen them under algae mats, logs and even on floats and it seemed the calmer the conditions the higher they sat to the surface. Any swell or chop had them holding deeper making them harder to spot and even harder to fish at. So far I had spotted several fish but I had struggled to get them to bite. Multiple soft plastic lure changes saw some interest but nothing that would turn the fish onto strike with some lures seemingly scaring the fish and sending them down deep. The obvious strategy would be to be use lighter gear however as I had witnessed on prior occasions these fish have rakers and scales which a barra would envy and can chop through even the toughest of leader with ease.  They are also very dirty fighters and show no quarter and rival mangrove jacks for their ability to run you into the nearest bit of structure and bust you up. Combine this with aerial acrobatics (hence the name jumping cod) and you have a serious sportfish on your hands which can make your silly string choice look very silly.
The other telling factor I had uncovered was that the Triple Tail seemed to be more prevalent on a rising or falling high tide. In fact the larger the tide the more fish were seen. I attributed this to the fact that the bigger tides tend to push out more debris and in turn bring out the Triple Tail which love to lazily hang or float off this debris. The bigger tides were pushing out some good sized logs as well as condensing algae matting which was where I was finding the majority of fish.  This morning the conditions couldn’t have been any better with a king tide pushing out early and for this reason I decided to concentrate my efforts around a creek mouth where I knew floating debris would be present.
Getting nearer to the spot I deployed the minkota and began searching out likely looking floating debris for any signs of fish. Even when you don’t see any fish I have learnt to always stick in a cast as sometimes the fish can be sitting down low in the water. Unfortunately not a single fish was spotted even though conditions were prime. Interestingly I have since spoken to a local angler from this area and he has explained that due to changes in the mouth of the creek (due to the build up of sand because of a lack of a big flush) the fish are moving less and less outside into the coastal regions and open beaches.
Feeling a little disheartened I began to push my way back south checking bits and pieces here and there as I went. I soon came across an old buoy floating not far from shore. It looked like it had once been a mooring but the presence of weed floating off the rope suggested it hadn’t been used in a while. I noticed a large black shape begin to drop into the depths as I neared the buoy and from its movements I called it as a big squid. Tying on a jig I shot it into the area and worked it back near the buoy. The jig caught the attention of the squid drawing it to the surface. It was then I realised that this was no squid but a solid Triple Tail and it was looking to feed. I quickly sent in a soft plastic grub and ran the lure right past its nose for a zero reaction. I then tried a small prawn but the flicking action only proceeded to send the fish deep again. I then opted for a small paddle tail for again no result. Whilst disheartened I could still see the fish hanging below the surface so a new tactic was employed. Tying on a Koolabung Krazy Krab with a ¼ ounce J hook Jig head I was keen to see if it would bite on a sinking crab not a moving lure. My cast however was a little long and the plastic bounced off the buoy then fell into the water. I was half expecting the fish to sink with the noise from the collision before right in front of me it scampered out and smashed my sinking Krazy Krab. I thankfully had the bail arm over as the fish went nuts tearing drag off the reel and jumping twice before it went deep pulling more string. The big head shakes reverberated through the rod as it kept pulling string and diving again and again.   Finally it made the net and my efforts were rewarded with a stocky solid fish around the 60cm mark.
In hindsight it is not surprising that the Krazy Krab sealed the deal as many of the triple tails caught as a youngster were full of crabs. Also many of the algae mats floating around on the surface also had small crabs in them as well.
Whilst a great capture, I know there is still plenty to learn and plenty of new ground to explore including some reported big fish grounds where 90cm plus Triple Tail are not that unusual. Like all things fishing, when the time,  tide and weather align Il be there with the Krusty Krab at the ready. Let the Triple Tail Hunt begin!