Grey Triggerfish

Grey triggerfish are an unusual and challenging fish, but with the right tackle at the correct time and place can give you a memorable and worthwhile fishing experience.
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Where and When?

Grey triggerfish are restricted to the eastern and western shores of the middle Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia south to Argentina in the west and from the Mediterranean Sea to Angola in the east. Most sport fishing for this species takes place in the USA and is concentrated around the western shores of Florida. While they may be found in deeper waters, from 20 to 40 meters (66 to 131 ft.), they are commonly found in lagoons, harbours and bays. They favour structure much of the time, hiding in crevices and cracks in rocks and wrecks, but in breeding season become active in sandy shallow water areas. In summer, large males will take up residence and defend territories and this can be a good time to target and catch them. Otherwise, grey triggerfish can be difficult to locate and specialised fishing equipment is required to have a good chance of landing them. On conventional tackle many people see grey triggerfish as pests that steal bait, as their very small mouths make them difficult to hook and the sharp teeth enable them to bite off bait without swallowing the hook.

About Grey Triggerfish

Grey triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) are a sometimes fairly abundant, medium sized fish of many coastal waters off the western seaboard of the USA. Adults are indeed grey in colour with three vertical, broad bands of darker grey down the sides, while young specimens are generally lighter. They have thick, strong, leathery skin and are laterally compressed with small eyes situated high on the front of the body. Their mouths are very small and they have parrot-like beaks with very sharp teeth. The forward dorsal fin has three strong spines with the front one being much higher and stronger than the others. They can achieve 60 centimeters (24 in.) in length but are more commonly encountered at around 44 centimeters (17 in) and the maximum weight is around 6.2 kilograms (14 lbs.). They move forward by undulating their dorsal and anal fins and from side to side using their round, pectoral fins. Males turn charcoal grey in breeding season and dig multiple sandy hole nests which attract females. Females eventually lay their eggs in one nest, which they defend aggressively, while the males continue to defend the greater area which often contains several nests. They feed mostly on invertebrates, most commonly urchins, crabs and shrimps.

How to Catch?

Grey triggerfish are an interesting, challenging and sometimes frustrating species to target and land. Despite their not large size, they are difficult to hook, easily cut or snag line, fight well and often head for cover if hooked. Very small, strong hooks are required, baited with equally small pieces of bait such as squid or shrimp. Light tackle is the best and most fun, but the species will take a wide variety of natural and, carefully presented, artificial baits. It is not easy to target grey triggerfish but their flesh is highly prized and landing a good-sized specimen is quite an achievement. While dropping suitable baits and tackle to the bottom near reefs and wrecks and gently lifting them a little can produce results, sight fishing can be a very stimulating and exciting alternative. The best opportunities for this are casting around floating debris or locating territorial males during the breeding season. Casting a suitable bait, lure or even fly close to, but not too close to, a fish can result in a firm hook up and a memorable fight.