Tripletail have made an impression on Capt. Kenny Shiyou.

"I tell everybody: 'If I was a wealthy man, that's all I would fish,'" Shiyou swore.

And a fellow would have to be rolling in it to be able to afford enough gas to run crab buoys out in the Mississippi Sound all day long.

You see, tripletail can be ubiquitous and evanescent at the same time.

On one hand, they can be found just about anywhere off the coast of Mississippi. On the other, they can be here today and gone tomorrow.

Although they don't really school like lots of other saltwater fish, Shiyou said tripletail do tend to stay within a couple square miles of each other.

Within those stretches float hundreds of crab trap buoys, not to mention an eclectic assortment of dead fish, trash bags, shrimp boat salt bags and even floating ladders.

And tripletail could be under any of them - or none of them. The only way to know is to go for a boat ride.

Despite their relative obscurity under the water, tripletail are becoming quite famous above it. Over the last couple of years, Shiyou has seen a marked increase in the amount of interest they have garnered.

"With the Internet and media the way it is today, something we used to do all alone on our way in from trout trips has turned into dozens of boats out there trying to run for them," Shiyou said.

In fact, it's gotten to the point that anglers aren't even leaving the dock until late morning to run for tripletail until noon without even so much as giving any attention to the trout and redfish.

With this increased popularity, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has implemented an 18-inch minimum length limit on tripletail and a daily creel limit of three fish per person.

"Consider you got three anglers on your boat," Shiyou said. "That's still a lot of fish. Nine tripletail? That's a good haul, especially if you consider some of those big boys could weigh in the upper teens or low 20s."

Shiyou generally starts seeing tripletail showing up in the Mississippi Sound at some point in April, and they tend to stick around until September. He's never seen any in October, though, and he believes this has something to do with the cool fronts that start rolling through.

"From what I've read about them, they like (water temperature) above 80 degrees," he said. "They seem to all move back offshore during the winter.

"We fish well into November, and we start fishing the first chance we get the beginning of March or end of February. We don't see tripletail until we get above 70 degrees. Then we start seeing a few coming in."

Although their migration patterns remain a mystery, Shiyou said he believes they move in from the east or southeast. His reasoning is anecdotal but logical: It seems like every year he hears of a few getting caught around Pascagoula and Ocean Springs before he starts seeing them west of Cat Island.

Interestingly, tripletail seem to show up west of Cat Island before anglers start seeing them in Lake Borgne and on into the Rigolets in Louisiana.

Not scientific, but it seems to support Shiyou's hunch about them moving in from east to west.

Why they move in remains as much of a mystery as the direction from which they come.

But, after talking to the Gulf Coast Research Lab, Shiyou said tripletail prefer to spawn in less than 200 feet of water.

That might be one of the reasons they move into the Mississippi Sound during the summer, but to add to the mystery the fact that tripletail like salinity to be above 30 parts per thousand.

"That puzzles me, too, because our salinity - I don't ever see it getting above 30 parts per thousand in our inland waters, which is where we see them most of the time," Shiyou noted.

Casting the unknown aside, what is known is that tripletail are here now, and they are relatively simple to catch if you don't mind putting in the time and gas running around to find them.

Tripletail are most frequently found suspended directly under floating objects in the water. Smaller fish tend to float on their sides in a horizontal position while the larger fish seem to position themselves more vertically in the water.

Anything floating in the water has the potential to hold these unusual fish.

"I tell people all the time that I personally don't pass up anything that's floating without looking under it," Shiyou explained. "People tell me all the time that they've looked at 200 crab traps and haven't seen anything.

"Well, he might be on the 201st trap, so you've got to keep looking."

Novice tripletail anglers often wonder what they're looking for, and Shiyou instructs his anglers to look for any discoloration under any floating object.

Fish lying on their sides seem to show up almost as a silver pie plate just under the water, while those suspended more up and down look more like a mottled gray mass.

"When you finally see one, you will know it," Shiyou said. "My anglers may give me that are-you-just-killing-time look when we first start running tripletail, but once they see one they all go on point looking at everything we pass.

"Sometimes I'll hesitate on pulling back on the throttle just to see if they see it."

Shiyou said that nine times out of 10 tripletail will have their noses into the current. Therefore, once he spots a fish he passes it up and circles around back to it from the downcurrent side to put himself into a perfect position to cast in front of the fish.

Two methods work well for tripletail, considering how well an angler can cast: Those unsure of where their bait is going to land throw shrimp about 8 to 10 inches under a cork, while more-accomplished casters generally throw a free-lined shrimp with no weight or cork.

"Either way you choose, the idea is to get it far enough in front of him that you don't spook him and just let the current wash it right into his mouth," Shiyou explained. "Whatever you do, though, don't let your rig hit the floating object, because he's probably going to leave at that point."

One of two things is going to happen once you've made your cast without spooking the fish.

First, assuming the current has carried your shrimp in the right path, you will be able to watch the tripletail engulf your bait.

Second, you're going to spook the fish, and he's going to disappear.

Watching them eat is the easy part; it gets a little more challenging once you spook a fish off of a float.

"They just disappear if you spook them," Shiyou said. "I have waited them out and watched them come back in 15 minutes.

"But I've also sat there 30 minutes and never saw them again."

That's part of the mystery, and Shiyou doesn't know whether the missing fish has simply moved farther down the line in the case of a crab trap buoy or if he just leaves altogether.

Shiyou's general plan of attack once a fish leaves a float is to keep running and come back on it later to see if the fish has returned.

But as frustrating as their disappearances can be, Shiyou has also had their magic act work in his favor.

"Sometimes I see one fish, catch it and watch another just appear out of nowhere," he said. "That's the way it happened for me earlier this summer. We caught a 7-pound fish off a buoy, only to watch a 25.6-pounder show up.

"We caught that one, too."

Over many months of fishing for tripletail, Shiyou has noticed that particular buoys seem to hold fish over and over again. These hotspots he marks in his GPS so he can always return to them.

"And there seems to be something about the first and last buoy in a line," he said. "I've hit many fish on the first buoy and think I'm about to smoke them on this particular line, and then not see another fish until the last one.

"Some lines you may find five or six fish on, but those are few and far between."

Although he sticks with his typical trout rod, Shiyou spools up with 50-pound braided line with a 40-pound-test mono leader attached to it. This way, if a tripletail wraps him around a float, he's still got a chance to land it.

The heavier line also helps out when Shiyou hooks up with the larger fish. Legal fish tend to run in the 6- to 10-pound range this time of year, with an occasional 12- to 15-pounder.

But these fish do get up into the 20-pound range.

In fact, Shiyou guided anglers to three fish in the mid to upper 20-pound range last year within a two-week period.

If these sound like the kind of fish you would love to brag about on MS-Sportsman.com's forum, start checking anything floating as soon as you leave any public or private boat ramp at Bay St. Louis, Bayou Caddy or Pass Christian.

It's not unusual to start spotting these transient treasures within a half mile of the ramp.

And that sounds like something anybody can do, whether they're wealthy or not.

Editor's note: Shiyou can be reached at 228-493-5735.