Triggerfish (Gray) Fishing (Balistes capriscus)

All Tackle Record
13lbs, 9oz

Triggerfish (Gray) Fishing (Balistes capriscus)

The odd-looking Triggerfish is one of the lesser known smaller gamefish of the western Atlantic, notorious as a bait thief, but a welcome catch for its food qualities.

The family of Triggerfish includes a variety of tropical species, some of which (such as the Clown Triggerfish) boast incredible coloration, making them attractive aquarium residents. The most accessible Gray Triggerfish is not as colorful, but retains the peculiar appearance sure to delight any angler lucky enough to land one.

Triggerfish get the name after their smaller dorsal fin, which can be pressed like a trigger to lower the larger one, after it has been raised for defense. They use this rigid dorsal spine to lock themselves into position once they escape into a crevace.

The fully raised dorsal spine is pictured above. Landed aboard Champion Charters in Ft Walton, FL

How big

Gray Triggerfish are on the small side, growing up to a maximum of 30'' and 14lbs. Fish are commonly caught between 15 and 20'' and 1 and 4lbs.

When & Where

The species can be found in shallow coastal waters of the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Argentina, including the Gulf of Mexico (especially the Panhandle), the Carribean Sea, the Bahamas and Bermuda. They also inhabit the eastern Atlantic, where they can be found in the Mediterranean Sea and off Angola in west Africa.

They live mostly over rocky and reefy bottoms and wrecks at 80 to 300ft of depth, but are common in inshore bays and lagoons up to 180ft deep. Shallower waters will see them during the warmer months, March through September.

How to catch

Triggerfish have very small and bony mouths with tough incisor teeth and are known to nibble on the bait (whatever size it is) rather than swallowing it. This, coupled with their dorsal spine anchoring technique described above makes them tricky fish to land.

Natural bait is the most effective, and anglers most often use squid or cut baitfish. These can be deep dropped and still fished or drifted. The hook should be as small and sharp as possible.

Good to eat?

Even though they have tough skin and are hard to fillet, they yield excellent quality flesh. Isolated cases of ciguatera (fish poisoning) have been reported.


Season - Gulf waters - closed June 1 - July 31; Atlantic waters - open year-round;
Size limit (minimum) - Gulf waters - 14'' FL, except Texas, where it's 16'' TL; Atlantic coast of Florida, South Carolina - 12'' FL; no size regulations elsewhere;
Bag limit (per angler per day) - Gulf coast of Florida - 2; Louisiana, Alabama - 2 within the 20 reef fish aggregate; Texas, North Carolina - 20; Atlantic coast of Florida - 10; no bag regulations elsewhere;