Bored with the same-old same old? If you’re looking for a new and different fish to fry, look no further than the triggerfish. Despite their odd looks, triggerfish are good eating, with firm white meat that has a taste comparable to frogs’ legs. When alarmed, triggerfish lock their large, thick dorsal spine in an erect, defensive position. Push down on the second dorsal spine, the first one unlocks and snaps back down – hence the name triggerfish. Though hardy, triggers are poor swimmers. They use a method called balistform: The second dorsal and the anal fins undulate in a wave-like motion. Take care when taking a triggerfish off your hook because they have strong jaws and beaver-like teeth, perfect for chewing mollusks and crustaceans, their main diet.
Catching triggerfish is not easy; they’re quick eaters better known for stealing bait than inhaling hooks. Remember those teeth? In a fraction of a second they can crush the shell of shrimp or crab baits and suck out the juicy part. Foil their bait-stealing techniques by fishing with tiny #1 or #2 hooks, and use tough baits, such as clam snouts or mussel bellies, that aren’t easily removed. Fish near solid structure, and be prepared to force the fish into open water quickly – hooked triggerfish often attempt to wedge themselves into cracks or crevices, then use that big dorsal spine to lock themselves in place. If this happens to the fish on the end of your line and it’s within reach, unlock the dorsal using a rod tip, a boathook, or your hand. Otherwise, slack your line and wait for the fish to come out on its own. Use slow, steady pressure to bring triggers to the boat. Triggerfish are more powerful than they appear because they turn sideways to gain leverage, as permit or jacks sometimes do.