Brunswick Teens Sets Georgia Tripletail Record

Kyle Thigpen caught a 38-lb., 14-oz. tripletail!

Capt. Spud Woodward | July 1, 2005

When 17-year old Kyle Thigpen joined his parents Joan and Buddy of Brunswick for a 2005 Father’s Day trip aboard the family boat, Get The Net, he really wasn’t that enthusiastic. Perhaps if he’d known he was in for a date with fishing destiny, he’d have been a bit more excited.

Given his family heritage, it’s no surprise that the fish gods had something special in store for Kyle. His maternal grandfather and uncles helped pioneer fishing for tripletail, or eddyfish as they are locally known, in the Golden Isles area. The Bluesteins learned big tripletail are drawn to manmade structures like pilings and buoys and became local legends with their catches. Kyle’s mother holds the current Georgia women’s state record for tripletail with a 22-lb., 7-oz. fish caught near Jekyll Island in 1994.   

Kyle’s turn to be part of the family legacy came on the afternoon of June 19, 2005, when he pitched a D.O.A. shrimp behind a channel marker in the Hampton River, hoping to tempt a tripletail. His effort was rewarded with a solid strike and soon the fight was on. “I knew it was a good fish, but I had no idea how big it was until it came to the surface. I remember telling Kyle to back off the drag cause we didn’t want to lose this one,” said Buddy.

Kyle Thigpen, of Brunswick, with the new state record tripletail — 38-lbs., 14-oz. — caught on Father’s Day, June 19, 2005.

After a 35-minute battle, the big tripletail came aboard. The Thigpens’ trained eyes told them they had something special. Later that afternoon, the fish weighed in at 38-lbs., 14-ozs. on a certified scale at the DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters. Not only does this fish eclipse the current Georgia record of 28-lbs., 7-ozs, it came within just a few pounds of beating the world-record mark of 42-lbs., 5-ozs. After punching the off button of his cell phone, Kyle smiled. “My uncles just don’t want to believe the fish weighs that much. I’m not sure they’re ever going to talk to me ever again,” he said, laughing.

Every spring, anglers in the Golden Isles take to the water in pursuit of tripletail. While many prefer to sight-fish the shallow waters off Jekyll Island, some traditionalists, like the Thigpens, do it the old-fashioned way — by prospecting the channel-marker pilings and buoys. Live shrimp has been the traditional bait of choice, but high-quality imitations like the D.O.A. plastics have proven deadly on both the structure fish and the free swimmers found off the beach.

Little is known about the tripletail, but it appears the Golden Isles area draws an unusually large number of fish, compared with other areas of the Atlantic Coast. In the late 1990s, fishing guides concerned about the growing popularity of the species and the risk of overfishing, petitioned the DNR to create harvest regulations for tripletail. In Georgia, anglers can harvest five tripletail measuring at least 18 inches each day. Some anglers and guides still believe these limits are too liberal and have asked DNR officials to consider further reductions. While DNR may make recommendations, the final action will be up to the Georgia General Assembly.

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