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The Atlantic tripletail or tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) is a warm-water marine fish found across the tropics; it can grow to 90 cm long and weigh 18 kg. It is also known by fishermen by names like flasher or steamboat.[1] Young fishes float on their sides, often beside flotsam, and appear like a dry leaf.[2]



The Atlantic tripletail is the only fish in the family Lobotidae that can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is, however, distributed across tropical seas especially in the Indonesian region which is commonly found in wet markets such as in Pontianak, West Kalimantan.[3]

Tripletails are well known for their unusual behavior of floating just beneath the surface with one side exposed, mimicking a leaf or floating debris. This is thought to be a feeding strategy because of the locality of their prey items and the floating structures associated with this behavior.[5] The behavior has resulted in a rapidly increasing incidence of recreational fishermen sight-fishing for the floating tripletails, resulting in severe bag and length restrictions in Florida and Georgia to ensure future populations.[6]

The Atlantic tripletail has scales that extend onto its dorsal, anal, and caudal fins and a head profile that concaves as the fish ages. It has a compressed but deep body with a triangle-shaped head. The eyes are small, but the mouth is large. The bases of the dorsal and anal fins are scaled and the pectoral fins are shorter than the pelvic fins. The name "tripletail" is given because of the fish's three rounded fins: dorsal, caudal, and anal.

Juvenile Atlantic tripletails are colored a mottled yellow, brown, and black. Adults are jet black. When it lies on its side at the surface, the tripletail is sometimes confused for a floating mangrove leaf. The juveniles have white pectoral fins and a white margin on their caudal fins. Adult tripletails have varied mottled color patterns which range from dark brown to reddish brown, often with a tint of gray.

The Atlantic tripletail has a distinctive appearance and can be easily recognized by its three dorsal fins of equal size, which are positioned along its back. The body is generally dark brown or greenish, with irregular lighter spots or blotches. The species has a compressed body shape and can reach up to 1 meter in length and weigh up to 27 kg. The Atlantic tripletail has a broad head with a large mouth, and its eyes are positioned on the top of the head. The species has a relatively short lifespan, with a maximum reported age of 8 years.[7]

Atlantic tripletails are opportunistic eaters; they feed on a variety of foods, mostly small finfish such as gulf menhaden, Atlantic bumpers, and anchovies. They also feed on invertebrates such as blue crabs and brown shrimp, as well as other benthic crustaceans.

Spawning primarily occurs in the summer along both the Atlantic and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coasts, with peaks during July and August. The species is known to spawn in open water, with peak spawning occurring in the summer months. Females can produce up to 700,000 eggs per spawning event, and the eggs are pelagic and buoyant. The larvae are planktonic and undergo significant morphological changes before settling to the substrate. Males reach sexual maturity at a smaller size and younger age than females.[7] Large congregations of tripletails during the summer months in the inshore and nearshore waters of coastal Georgia suggest this area is a critical estuarian spawning habitat for the species. Larval Atlantic tripletails go through four levels of development; preflexion, flexion, postflexion, and transformation. By the time the larvae reach 0.16 in (4 mm), they have large eyes and concave heads. The larval forms of Atlantic tripletails resemble those of boarfishes, some jacks, spadefishes, and bass.

Atlantic tripletail does not have many predators but is preyed upon by a variety of larger predators, including sharks, barracudas, and other large predatory fish. Juvenile tripletail are also vulnerable to predation by birds, such as pelicans and gulls, which can be attracted to floating debris where the fish are sheltering.[7]

Parasites of the tripletail include the copepods Anuretes heckelii which affects the branchial cavities, Lernanthropus pupa which affects the gill filaments, and Scianophilus tenius.

A few tons of Atlantic tripletails are fished commercially on the east and west coasts of Florida, and marketed fresh, frozen, or salted. They are mainly caught using haul seines, gill nets, and line gear. They are common in driftnet catches of tuna along the edge of the continental shelf. This fish is targeted by recreational anglers for its delicious meat.

The Atlantic tripletail is not listed as endangered or vulnerable with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Both Florida and Georgia have a bag limit of two fish per day for recreational fishing. In Florida, the minimum length is 18 in;[8] in Georgia, 18 in.[6]

Juvenile tripletail are commonly found in floating patches of Sargassum or other types of drift algae and appear to be strongly associated with shaded structures. Tripletail grow fastest in their first year, often exceeding 5 pounds in weight. This may be an adaptation to the high predation rate of small fishes in the epipelagic zone.

Tripletail are a deep-bodied perch-like fish with rounded dorsal and anal fins extending almost to the tail. At first glance they appear to have three tails, hence the most commonly used name, tripletail. Their color varies widely, from shades of yellow brown, to dark brown or black with ill defined spots and mottling.

A cosmopolitan species, tripletail can be found living in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide. Their range is widespread throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. This fish is a rare find north of the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the United States but do occasionally make their way northward in the Gulf Stream current. Throughout the spring and fall months, these fish can be found along the Gulf Coast states.They are most often found floating on or near the surface, hanging around or near buoys (hence the names buoy fish and buoy bass), pier pilings or floating debris, or drifting along with currents imitating other buoyant objects. They can also be found lurking around bottom structure such as wrecks and rock piles. The following list includes additional details on where to catch this fish:

All types of tackle can be used to target tripletail but a 30 or 40 lb leader or shock tippet is desirable because once hooked, tripletail will almost invariably lead back to the barnacle covered refuge where found. While live shrimp seem to be the preferred bait of many anglers, tripletails will take dead baits, jigs, plugs or shrimp pattern flies and popping bugs.They may look like a lazy, slow fish floating at the surface, but they can move quickly when they strike, and can exhibit surprisingly powerful lunges and occasional jumps when hooked. They also grow to a substantial size, possibly reaching a weight of 50 lbs and the white, fine textured fillets are excellent eating. The following are fishing methods used to catch this fish:

Legislators passed catch and minimum size limits for both Atlantic spadefish and Atlantic tripletail, two coastal fish that previously lacked some protections. Under the new laws, anglers may keep 10 spadefish per person per day (or 30 per boat) and may only keep fish at least 14 inches in total length. The creel limit for spadefish was previously 20 fish per person per day, with no minimum size limit. Anglers may keep three tripletail per person per day (or nine per boat), provided those fish are at least 18 inches in total length. No previous limits existed for tripletail in South Carolina waters.

Originally introduced in the S.C. Senate by Senator Chip Campsen in 2019, the tripletail and spadefish bills received unanimous approval in the Senate and were passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The new limits took effect upon Acts 118 and 119 being signed by Governor Henry McMaster on March 24, 2020.

A few tons of tripletails are fished commercially on the east and west coasts of Florida, and marketed fresh, frozen, or salted. They are mainly caught using haul seines, gill nets and line gear. They are common in driftnet catches of tuna along the edge of the continental shelf. This fish is infrequently targeted by recreational fishers.

The tripletail is not listed as endangered or vulnerable with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The IUCN is a global union of states, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations in a partnership that assesses the conservation status of species.

The tripletail is found from Massachusetts and Bermuda to Argentina, including both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It is also found in the eastern Atlantic: Mediterranean Sea as well as from Madeira Island (Portugal) to the Gulf of Guinea, Eastern Pacific: Costa Rica to Peru, and the Western Pacific: Japan, Fiji, and Tuvalu as well as in the tropical and subtropical waters surrounding Australia. It is rare north of the Chesapeake Bay. They are found on the Gulf coast April through early October and migrate to the south during the winter months. There has been one report of a tripletail caught off the coast of California. The tripletail is not very abundant in any particular location.

The tripletail is found coastally in most tropical and subtropical seas. The tripletail is a semi-migratory pelagic fish. It is normally solitary, but under some conditions the tripletail may form schools. In the summer, they can be found in bays, sounds and estuaries. Juveniles are often found swimming under patches of Sargassum algae. Adults are normally found in waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but may occur in passes, inlets, and bays near river mouths. The tripletail is often found around ship wrecks, supports of beacons, the pilings of jetties, and sea buoys. Tripletail larvae are usually found in waters greater than 84F (28.8C), greater than 30.3 ppt salinity and more than 230 feet (70 m) deep. The tripletail is the only member of its family Lobotidae found in the Atlantic Ocean. 041b061a72


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