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Many people more or less ignore triggerfish, and only encounter them as bycatch. This is a shame, because triggerfish fight hard for their side (heck, they are after all shaped just like a bluegill) and taste great. So, why not give ’em a shot? These five tips will help you bring some triggers into the boat.
Find one triggerfish, and you often find the mother load.
- Down-size your hooks. Triggerfish have tiny mouths, and going to a #4 hook is not going too small. In fact, there’s a huge chance that in the past you’ve had snapper or grouper baits nibbled away by these bait-stealers without catching them, simply because your hooks were too large.
- Grab a box of squid when you’re at the bait shop. Triggers love squid, and using this bait you have the added advantage of being able to cut small strips (appropriate to those small hooks) but still have a tough offering that stays on the hook.
- Fish structure, structure, and structure. Yes, it’s true you’ll see triggers in open water and swimming under flotsam. But there are far more of them holding around wrecks and reefs.
- Set the hook immediately, at the first indication of a bite. Triggerfish have an annoying habit of sucking a bait into their mouth, chewing once or twice, then spitting it right back out. So the moment you feel the first tap, swing for the stars.
- Triggerfish sometimes suspend over a wreck or reef, particularly when there’s another dominant species (like snapper) in abundance. If you drop trigger baits and catch other species, or when you see clouds of suspended fish on the meter, try letting your rig hit bottom and then crank in five or 10 feet of line. If you don’t get any bites bring in another few feet and give that a try, and so on, until you start getting hit.
BONUS Trigger Tip: These fish have scales like armor plating. Try to saw through and you’ll dull your knife after a few fish. Instead, pop two or three scales off the fish right behind its head and along the back. Then insert the tip of your knife, work it along the backbone, and sweep it back out through by the dorsal. Continue, working your way farther and farther down until the fillet is free and you can cut if off along the rib cage.