“Shootin Fish in a Barrel”
Often overlooked as a nuisance when pursuing snapper or grouper the Gray Trigger fish
(Balistes Capriscus), offers an exciting challenge on light tackle, perfect for the younger
or older group of fisherpersons who may not be up to a grouper battle. In addition trigger
fish are absolutely delicious on the dinner table, similar in taste to a flounder yet with a
slightly firmer flesh. Large triggers are also very good as they grow they do not become
gammy. Mild in taste great pan fried, baked, or grilled. The trigger earns it’s name from
its stiff dorsal fin that locks into an open position when the fish is alarmed, you might say
“cocked, locked and ready to rock”.
From July through the early part of November I have found schools of triggers
approximately five miles on the Gulf side of Egmont Key. This area, around the thirty
foot in depth, has an abundance of rubble reefs that protrude from the bottom up to
fifteen foot. The surrounding area offers an interesting view, Egmont Key, the north tip
of Anna Maria Island, St. Pete Beach on one side and the “Parking Lot” in the northwest
direction an area where the large merchant ships anchor waiting their turn one of the
local ports. From what I have been told the rubble is from the old skyway bridge. Find
one of these spots and anchor up for an easygoing day of fun. I have received reports
from other captains that they have caught triggers in water up to 180 foot in depth.
The equipment is easy, I use a seven and a half foot stiff graphite rod rated 8-17 pounds
and fifteen pound braided line, however some of my fishing buddies are quite successful
with the simple twenty dollar variety of rod/reel combinations that are available from the
“big box” stores.
Braided line is recommended since you will be fishing among various predatory bait fish
and the sensitivity of the braided will allow you to know when to set the hook or go with
the rat a tat tat that is only a bait fish nibbling. I also use the smallest jig head I can get to
the bottom since a simple jig head rig adds to the sensitivity of the equipment.
For bait a half piece of shrimp “wormed” onto the hook is fine. Work the hook up
through the bait, do not let any shrimp dangle off or your offering will be easy pickins.
Frozen is fine for triggers.
Lower your bait to the bottom, try to ignore the bait fish picking in your bait. After
arriving at the bottom bring your bait up a few feet off of the bottom, gently jig it and
wait. Keep your rod tip up so it is at least to your eye level as you look to the horizon.
When you get a more pronounced tap on the line lower the rod tip approximately two to
three foot to allow the trigger to run and position the bait in it’s mouth, then smoothly lift
the rod back to the original eye level, hold on and crank. The hit is similar to pompano or
Triggers will also hit on the drop so lower your line at a controlled speed (a benefit of a
baitcaster reel), if the drop accelerates give the fish a foot or two more drop, then set the
hook with a smooth two to three foot upwards sweep.
The trigger skin is tough and will quickly dull a filet knife. A tip from Captain Hank
Williams of Wet Willy Charters (wetwillycharters.com) suggests that you grasp your filet
knife ¼ from the end between your index finger and thumb. Pierce the edge of the fish and cut a
slit all around the triggers edges. Then take a filleting pliers and remove the skin. Finish filleting
out the fish as you would normally do.
Size limit on triggers in Federal water is a twelve inch minimum and twenty fish limit.
Florida state waters are a twelve inch minimum, unlimited catch in Florida-HEY!
Please leave some for me!
Captain John Guy