I first saw the peculiar Triggerfish about 10 years ago whilst fishing from the rocks in West Cornwall. A fellow angler next to us caught a couple whilst float fishing. There appeared to be a few at that particular mark and i remember peering over the edge of a rock watching small triggerfish swimming around in the clear water. They weren't interested in my sand eel bait though, however they happily took small bits of bait loose fed to them! A string of fish were caught across Cornwall that year from the shore however i never really got the chance to target them again. A few have been caught over the years by shore anglers, i suspect mostly by accident whilst targeting other species. The boat anglers would get the odd flurry of them but i've never had a clue where to put any time into targeting them..... that was until Kev and Richard caught some during the PZ meet.
This lit a fire inside of me and i knew i had half a chance of actually catching one. I had planned to fish the Monday with Mark Radcliffe, although we hadn't planned where to go. Well, we now had a venue!
Yet again the weather was blissfully calm as with the previous 4 days. We launched from a north coast beach with next to no surf.... now that is a treat! Usually there is a minimum of 2-3ft of surf on the beaches so to have an easy launch was a relief. We headed out to a likely trigger mark and anchored up. Mackerel were boiling on the surface and it wasn't long before we had some for bait. I put a big bait down incase a Tope or Bull Huss was in the area, along with a 2 hook rig baited with squid for the Triggers.
Almost straight away Mark had a good bite and was into a hard fighting fish but no sooner was it hooked it had bit through the line..... was it the target fish? Annoying to lose a fish but promising that what looked like a Trigger had taken the bait.
The wildlife was putting on a show again....
Time was ticking by and i had found one small Conger Eel, a small Bull Huss and a few dogfish for my efforts. The Triggers remained elusive and Mark was fairing much the same. We up-anchored and headed to deeper water in hope of finding a Tope. That wasn't working either with another Bull Huss for myself and little else beside more Mackerel. An hour or so of that and we headed back to try and find the target species.
It was like flicking a switch. My bait wasn't out for very long before something started to really hammer my bait.... this looks interesting! I held the rod and waited for a good pull..... fish on! The fish fought hard and was zooming around all over the place. This wasn't a fish i have hooked before, this was something different. My fingers were firmly crossed. It was taking line and putting up a very good account of itself. I peered over into the blue water and saw the unmistakable shape of Triggerfish diving around! "Triggerfish" i shouted over to Mark. I soon had my first Trigger sitting in the kayak..... Woooohhoooooo!!!
What a bizarre but beautiful fish. This particular fish was missing some of its 2nd dorsal fin but was still a stunning fish. Their skin is very tough and rough, giving them a very hardy look. They are covered in diamond shape scales that have a bristly texture. At first glance they are a drab brown/grey colour but look more closely and you notice electric blue markings across their body and fins.
Upon unhooking the fish started chomping its jaws with immense power. Combined with a fine set of teeth, i can see how these fish crunch up their diet of crustaceans, such as crabs, and shellfish, such as mussels.
The Triggerfish has a laterally compressed body giving a narrow profile when looked at head on...
They get their name from the large dorsal spine, or more specifically a smaller spine beside it. As the first large spine is raised into its vertical position, the smaller spine beside it slots into a groove locking the first spine in place. The first spine cannot be lowered until the small 'Trigger' spine is relaxed first. Triggerfish use this as a defence mechanism to wedge themselves into rocks and crevices when under attack or when threatened.
Triggerfish have quite a stunning tail with elongate tips.
Triggerfish species as a whole tend not to use their tail as their main form of locomotion, often using the well defined 2nd dorsal fin and anal fin in an undulating motion to power them along.
Overall a pretty awesome little fish! It shot off back to the depths after a few photos.
I was super chuffed to catch my first one and with it our spirits were lifted and our attention turned to the rod tips looking for the next bite. I put two rods out fishing for Triggers and this turned out to be a good idea. 20 minutes later one rod started to show a bite and i quickly hooked the fish. Another great scrap and another trigger in the kayak. No sooner had i pulled the fish on board the other rod tip slammed rod as a fish nailed the bait. Another feisty fish was shooting around beneath the kayak. I now had two pristine Triggerfish on the kayak!
I was over the moon! The sun was shining and i was catching Triggerfish....
Mark was wondering if he was in the wrong spot. It didn't take too long though before he hooked his target. We were both no longer Trigger virgins!
I then lost a fish and not long after caught another which turned out to be the biggest of the day at 2lb 6oz. Another fin perfect fish....
Quite a while passed by without any more bites and then Mark caught a second fish. It was now time to head in though. We were well happy to have located the elusive Triggerfish and catch some stunning specimens. I finished up with 4 having lost another and Mark finished up on 2 also having lost another. All released after capture.
Another species off the wish list and a really enjoyable one to catch, but i can see some mind-numbing blanks if they aren't present when targeting them. I'll be back for another go though!
Nice report Liam
Cornish Kayak Angler
Great article mate. congrats on your successful Atlantic Grey Trigger fish mission. And also thanks for detailed information about this rare fish. Learned lot from this article. Keep these kind of interesting articles coming. Good luck on your next fishing trip. Cheers.
Cornish Kayak Angler
Thanks for the comment. I have always wanted to see an alive specimen close up. I have found a few washed up dead on local beaches after a storm but they never have the colours of a live Trigger! Glad i was able to get some good photos on a sunny day!
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