Tonight’s Catch Grey Triggerfish

Grey Triggerfish

Grey Triggerfish are “excellent” eating, with firm white flesh that is almost sweet in flavor – closer to crab than fish. The most common preperation is pan fried although they can be broiled or baked as well. Grilling is difficult but can be accomplished with a “Fish Basket”.

Triggerfish have a roundish, laterally flat body with an anterior dorsal fin. They can erect the first two dorsal spines the first one locks and the second one unlocks. This prevents predators from swallowing them or pulling them out of their holes. This locking and unlocking behaviour is why they are named ‘triggerfish’. They have a small pectoral fin fused to one spine. Unlike the spine of a filefish, the spine of the triggerfish can be held in place by a second spine to make the fish more threatening to the predator. Their small eyes, situated on top of their large head, can be rotated independently. They have tough skin, covered with rough rhomboid-shaped scales that form a tough armour on their body. Most are solitary and diurnal. They feed on hard-shelled invertebrates, a few feed on large zooplankton or algae. The Gray Triggerfish has large incisor teeth and a deep laterally compressed body covered with tough, sandpaper-like skin. Unlike their cousin, the filefish, triggerfish have more than one dorsal spine. The action of this spine gives the triggerfish its (common) name. The first spine is large, and when erect it remains so until the smaller second spine is deflexed, triggering the first. Other names for them are taly, leatherjacket, leatherneck.

The gray triggerfish is found on both sides of the tropical and temperate Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, and from England southward along the coast of Africa. Along the southwestern United States, it typically inhabits hard bottom areas such as wrecks, rock outcroppings and coral reefs in waters 80-300 feet in depth. Spawning occurs off shore during the spring and summer, when fish are 3 years old or about 12 inches long. Unlike most reef fish, triggerfish have demersal eggs that are deposited in guarded nests. Age and growth studies suggest that females of the species grow larger and live longer than males, reaching lengths of more than 22 inches. Triggerfish use undulating motions of their dorsal and anal fins to ascend and descend vertically and to hover over the bottom searching for food. The species uses its powerful teeth to dislodge and crush small mussels, sea urchins and barnacles. It may also feed on plankton.