Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis)

The tripletail gets its name from its second dorsal and anal fins, which extend far back on the body so that the fish appears to have three tails. A member of the Lobotidae family, it is an excellent food fish.

Other Names

Atlantic tripletail, brown tripletail, dusky tripletail, sleepfish, buoy fish, buoy bass, chobie, triplefin, flasher; Afrikaans: driestert; Bengali: samudra koi; French: croupia roche; Japanese: matsudai; Malay/Indonesian: ikan tidur, kakapbato, pelayak, sekusong; Portuguese: furriel, prejereba; Spanish: dormilona.


The tripletail is characterized by its rounded dorsal and anal fins, which reach backward along the caudal peduncle, giving the fish the appearance of having a three-lobed, or triple, tail.

It has a deep, compressed body that resembles the body shape of the freshwater crappie, and it has a concave profile. The eyes are far forward on the snout, and the edge of the preopercle is strongly serrated.

Compared with other saltwater fish, the tripletail probably most resembles the grouper but lacks teeth on the roof of the mouth. The color is drab, various shades of yellow-brown to dark brown, with obscure spots and mottling on the sides.


The tripletail may reach a length of 3.5 feet and weigh as much as 50 pounds, although 1.5- to 2.5- foot lengths and weights of less than 20 pounds are more common. The all-tackle world record is 42 pounds, 5 ounces. The tripletail may live as long as 7 to 10 years.

Life history/Behavior

Although little is known about their spawning behavior, tripletail are believed to be sexually mature by the end of their first year. Spawning occurs in the spring and the summer, and although some fish may move inshore to spawn, young tripletails have been found in estuaries and in patches of offshore sargassum. Tripletail swim or float on their sides in the company of floating objects.

Food and feeding habits

Tripletail feed almost exclusively on other fish, such as herring, menhaden, and anchovies, as well as on eels and benthic crustaceans like


Inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters of all oceans, tripletail are found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts and Bermuda to Argentina. In the eastern Pacific they occur from Costa Rica to Peru. shrimp, crabs, and squid.


Tripletail occur in coastal waters and enter muddy estuaries, commonly in depths of up to 20 feet. There is some suggestion of a northerly and inshore migration into warm waters in the spring and the summer.