Alternate Title

Age, Growth, Diet, and Reproductive Biology of the Tripletail, Lobotes surinamensis, From the North-Central Gulf of Mexico


Tripletail, Lobotes surinamensis, are migratory fish that occur worldwide in warm seas, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. In the north-central Gulf of Mexico, tripletail support small recreational and commercial fisheries from April to Oct. and are commonly caught in bays and estuaries. Few studies have evaluated the life history and biological characteristics of tripletail; therefore, the objective of this study was to examine the age and growth, reproductive biology, and diet of tripletail caught off coastal Alabama. Our primary goal was to use life history information to determine. a minimum size limit for harvest. A secondary goal was to compare the results of our study with those of previous tripletail studies. A total of 119 specimens, ranging in size from 293- to 763-mm total length (TL), were collected from recreational anglers and from a wholesale seafood dealer between May 1998 and Aug. 2000. Female specimens were significantly longer and heavier than males. Total length varied greatly with age, although significant overlap in lengths was observed among ages. Age ranged from 0.87 to 4.09 yr. No male was older than 3.15 yr of age, whereas five females were estimated to be more than 4 yr old. Fifty percent of females reached sexual maturity by 494- to 594-mm TL and approximately 1 to 2 yr of age. All males greater than 380 mm were sexually mature. Diets were composed primarily of penaeid shrimps, various pelagic fish species, and portunid crabs, with the proportion of fish consumed increasing with tripletail length. On the basis of the results of this study as well as previous research on the life history and population dynamics of tripletail, the state of Alabama implemented a 406 mm (16 inch) minimum size limit for this species. This size limit is below the female size at 50% maturity (19.5-23.5 inch) and should be increased if large increases in fishing pressure occur.