Angler Sets 1st Md. Record for Rare Catch

Yet another record fish is caught in Maryland waters, and this is an unusual one. This time it was a tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis), a funky looking gamefish more commonly associated with southern waters.

On October 19, Angler Don Whittington of Bivalve, MD was fishing with his son, Don Jr., aboard Don Jr.’s boat Virginia. They were chunking for tuna and dolphin near Baltimore Canyon in the Atlantic off Ocean City when he spotted the triple tail near a lobster buoy. Having seen them a lot this summer, the anglers immediately knew what it was.

“It wouldn’t touch the cut bait, so I threw a green-and-white soft plastic lure to it,” Whittington said. “After I pulled that one in I was like, “‘Wow.’”

Wow is right. The elder Whittington’s unique haul, the state’s first-ever record tripletail, was a true beast, weighing 11 pounds and measuring 25.25 inches long.

DNR’s Recreational Fishing and Outreach Coordinator Erik Zlokovitz tells Bay Bulletin that “a small group of anglers have been targeting them in recent years off Ocean City, during summer and fall,” so given the size of this fish it “really creates a great benchmark for a new record catch.”

Once you know what it is, it’s pretty hard to confuse a tripletail with other fish given its distinctive look. And as you’d guess, it gets its name from appearing to have three tails. The dorsal fin and anal fin extend far back on the body, appearing to merging with the tail. Commonly found in the tropical waters of Florida, the fish’s range does extend to southern New England in summer months.

Veteran Ocean City charter captain Mark Sampson tells us, “I’m guessing some that drift north with the Gulf Stream in the summer work their way inshore and then (are) encountered by a few anglers just by chance. I wish we had a fishery for them like farther south.”

“I think they are becoming more common (in our waters),” adds Virginia expert angler Dr. Ken Neill. “We’ll see them offshore sometimes around weeds or something floating. They’ve also become a not-so-unusual catch in the Bay by cobia sight casters.”

Most Atlantic tripletails weigh two to 16 pounds but can grow to more than three feet and weigh up to 40 pounds or more. The International Game Fish Association lists the all-tackle world record at 42-pounds, 5-ounces, caught off Zululand, South Africa 1989. Virginia does not currently have a state record category for tripletail.

Anglers who think they caught a potential record in Maryland waters should call (443) 569-1381 or (410) 260-8325. They should immerse the fish in ice water to preserve its weight until Maryland DNR can check, confirm, and certify the catch.

-Capt. Chris D. Dollar