It’s hard not to do a double take when you lay your eyes on the monstrous 31-pound tripletail caught last week in East Bay.

If certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, it will become the new No. 7-ranked fish in the state, and the heaviest tripletail to hit the record books since 1977. 

But what’s even more interesting is how it was reeled in by Canadian angler Jeremy Croucher during only his second-ever trip out of Venice with Capt. Frank Lawson, owner of Fishing Frenzy Charters.

“I don’t even target those fish. We were bull red-fishing and we caught it. We were catching bull reds on the bottom. We had caught four or five big 35-pounders,” Lawson said, describing the action on the morning of July 14. “And I watched the guy throw out, and it hit right next to the leg of the rig. As soon as it hit the water, it started running, so I knew it wasn’t a bull red. 

“Actually, I thought it was a lemonfish because we catch lemonfish in there. As soon as it hit the water, it was gone.”

Fortunately, the big fish bolted away from the rig and headed for open water, where a 15-minute fight ensued. Incredibly, Croucher was fishing with a ¾-ounce jighead and a big dead shrimp on 20-pound PowerPro braid when the tripletail struck near the surface.

“It was a freak accident. I was still thinking lemon, because he’d come in a little closer then go out, come in a little closer then go out,” Lawson said. “Then all of a sudden I saw him surface on his side about the third time he came in. We got him to the boat and I hit him with the net and that got him mad and he started running.”

Lawson, whose personal best tripletail is about 8 or 9 pounds, said he was honest with Croucher when he got a good look at the fish. 

“I saw the fish, and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’  I thought it was like 40 pounds because in the water it looks a little bigger,” he said. “I told the guy straight up, I said, ‘This looks like a record right here.’”

The giant tripletail was eventually netted, and Lawson headed over to Cypress Cove Marina’s certified scales, where the big fish weighed-in at 31.28 pounds. It measured 32 inches long, with a girth of 35 inches. 

Croucher is having a replica mount of the fish made, and biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries removed its ear bones to determine its age. The fish was a female, and biologists also took samples of the fish’s eggs to investigate its reproductive capacity. 

The pending record fish was a fitting end to a relatively brief trip that morning.

“There was a bad thunderstorm about to cover us, and I wanted to try to get a couple of bull reds in the boat because they had to be back for noon to catch their flight,” Lawson said. “We got back around 11, so I guess we caught the fish about 10.

“They had a blast.”

According to the LOWA record books, the No 1-ranked tripletail in Louisiana was caught in July of 1959 by Mrs. Jimmy Toups, and weighed 39.5 pounds.