Sweat was pouring off our brows as fast the ice was melting in the rapidly-filling fish box of Kenny Shiyou’s boat, and that box was loaded with speckled and white trout.
The tail of a 26-inch redfish kept the lid from closing.
It was a brutal but productive day in the Biloxi Marsh, a vast expanse of a Louisiana fishery at the western end of the Mississippi Sound. The August sun was testing our 35- and 50-PDF sunblocks.
“Guys, it’s time to turn on the air conditioning,” Shiyou said. “We got enough trout to clean so let’s hit it.”
He got no argument from the two of us in the boat with him, even though it meant leaving behind trout — including the biggest white trout on average that any of us had ever seen — that were in the middle of a big bite.
“Crank it up Captain,” was our response in unison, not so much because of the heat or the full box but because we knew it meant the best was yet to come — the pursuit of big fat tripletails or black fish.
In addition to being fun, challenging and extremely tasty, tripletail fishing is just flat out cool. As in temperature cool, which puts the experience at the top of the long list of summertime fishing opportunities in both Mississippi and Louisiana. And because the best tripletail fishing is located right on the border of the two states due south of Bay St. Louis, Miss., it’s where we’ll start our summer adventure.
“What makes tripletail fishing so much fun is the technique,” said Shiyou. “You can do it running full speed, once you get into the right area.”
The right area is in near shore waters, well within sight of the coastline, where crabbers have set their traps. While tripletails hold tight to any structure on the surface, long lines of crab traps provide the perfect situation.
Shiyou found the start of such a run about two miles out of the mouth to Bayou Caddy in Waveland. He pointed out the seemingly never-ending line of traps and told us to keep close watch as we raced past each one.
Then he turned on the air conditioning — the 300-horse four-stroke motor — and took off. At 35 miles an hour, the breeze was refreshing.
But just five pots into the run, we spotted our first tripletail, a giant brown blob in the water a foot from a trap’s floating marker. Shiyou began throttling down, and 100 yards past the fish, he made a u-turn and starting idling back to the crab pot. As he steered closer, I grabbed the tripletail pole and fished a live shrimp out of the bait well. Shiyou uses a medium-heavy 6-foot spinning rod with 15-pound braid line leading to a small Styrofoam cork and an 18-inch piece of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader with a small treble hook..
Twenty yards from the trap, the captain killed the big motor and put his trolling motor in the water. When we closed to within 15 feet, the big fish was easily seen a foot to the left of the float. Shiyou directed Dan Smith of Jackson to flip the cork about 5 feet past the float on the right side of the float, which Smith did perfectly.
“Reel it back easily until it’s right beside…”
Shiyou never finished the sentence. The fish raced across the float and inhaled the shrimp with audible sucking “smack.” Five minutes later, I netted a 10-pound tripletail for Smith.
Before an hour was over, we boated three, including a giant 24-pounder that took nearly 20 minutes to subdue on the suddenly light tackle.
“People have been fishing tripletails down here for years, but only in the last five years, basically since Katrina have these fish moved into the western Sound so thick,” Shiyou said. “It took us a few years to really formulate this pattern, but it really works good and it provides a great end to a day’s fishing for trout.”