The first season of Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s researcher-based Tripletail tagging was a success thanks to the collaborative efforts of scientists, local guide captains and anglers.  Tripletail are a data-deficient species, meaning that scientific research is relatively limited and general aspects of the fish’s life are not yet known or understood.  In fact, the first biological species profile for Tripletail was published in November 2016 by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), even though the Tripletail fishery has been around for years, and the report noted many gaps in our knowledge of the fish and its life style.

DISL’s Tripletail tagging project is designed to help further understand Tripletail biology and make the information widely available.  Researcher-based tagging can provide information on tag-retention, fishing effort, fishing mortality, fish growth, estimated population sizes, and movement patterns.

Drs. Meagan Schrandt, John Dindo and Sean Powers began tagging Tripletail in June 2016 and concluded the season in October 2016.  DISL researchers spent 12 days on the water (over 80 hours) and covered more than 875 miles of coastal Alabama waters with 4 different guide captains.  Nearly 70 Tripletail were spotted from the boat and 31 were successfully tagged.  In addition to these fish, 8 Tripletail were also tagged at the weigh-ins for two local fishing tournaments: the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (4 fish) and the Saltwater Finaddicts Annual Inshore Championship (4 fish).  Sizes of tagged fish ranged from 10 to 28.9 inches, with an average of 16 inches and 6.9 lbs.

Researchers were glad to receive 7 tag-return calls (20% of tagged fish) and 3 of the fish were re-released by the anglers.  Days at liberty (the number of days between tagging and re-capture) ranged from 3 to 79 days and travel distances ranged from less than 2 km to over 100 km!  Also, an increase in days at liberty did not necessarily mean a greater distance between tag and re-capture locations. 

In addition to the tagging efforts, these scientists are also collecting data from carcasses donated to the DISL.  They are currently processing and analyzing data that will be some of the first of its kind for Tripletail in Alabama’s coastal waters.

The researchers hope to be able to continue tagging regularly and collecting carcasses as they are available.  They would like to thank the guide captains and anglers for all their help this season and hope to continue working together for seasons to come!

Keep an eye out for any tagged Tripletail when the 2017 season approaches – there are more than 30 fish out there with tags.  DISL tags can be found on the left side of the fish, near the dorsal fin (pictured).