Fishing for Triggerfish Along the New Jersey Shore
When I fish the New Jersey bay I simply love it. It really doesn't matter what I am bringing up, be it dogfish (sandshark), blues, small sea bass, flounder, or porgy; I still enjoy it whether it makes it to the dinner table or not.
Recently I noticed a fish I had not seen before at the Jersey shore. It came floating to the top, flat but football-shaped with big eyes and a tiny tooth-filled mouth. After some research and confirmation by anglers far smarter than me, I understdood it was a triggerfish.
I've caught many of them since then and I have to tell you that I love this fish for two reasons:
- For a fish so small they put up a good fight
- They are absolutely delicious to eat. Really. They have some great meat.
I admit, I am not the greatest fisherman ever, so if you have additional triggerfish tips, please add them in the comments below. In the meantime, I'll tell you what works for me.
Where to Find Triggerfish
Where do you find trigger fish in New Jersey? Well, the location that works best for me seems to be along bulkheads, dock posts, and pilings in the bay where there is a current. I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to other locations you may be aware of, but this sort of spot seems to work for me. One particular favorite spot of mine drops off about 19 or 20 feet down alongside a bulkhead, with a dock nearby, and other submerged objects that I seem to get fouled on every so often.
Equipment for Catching Triggerfish
- A medium to medium-heavy rod
- Spinning outfit with 14-pound braided line
- Kingfish/weakfish/perch rig with a 1½ ounce ball or button weight
- Fresh clams or newly bought salted clams
- Clam line
Technique For Catching Triggerfish
Ok, here it goes. Again, this is what works for me but I'm not exactly the big-game angler that I presume you are, so feel free to chime in. No rocket science here.
I attach the ball weight to the bottom of the kingfish/perch rig The kingfish/perch rig small hooks that are perfect for getting into the tiny mouth of the trigger fish. Some guys try to talk me out of using this rig thinking it will break easily, but I've had luck with it (though the hooks do get hammered by triggerfish).
Put really small pieces of fresh clam on the hooks: small like the size of the part of your pinky finger from the top knuckle up to the tip. I find that the bottom hook loses the most clam, so I also tie on the clam with a piece of clam line. You'll find that a fair amount of oystercrackers (toadfish) and small sea bass will enjoy these clams as well, and the line will help keep some clam on the hook despite their nibbles.
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Drop the line to the bottom along pilings and sheer surfaces (such as a bulk head) and let it sit. If you get slow, gradual movement with the current that is a good thing, especially if it drifts alongside a pole or other structure. If you are getting no bites and no drift, drift it a bit yourself by simply slowly dragging or reeling the bait along the bottom.
Trigger fish tend to nibble on your bait like so many bait stealer 'junk' fish do, but when they are hooked they really can pull hard on a medium outfit. Be patient when setting the hook; when these fish bite, you'll really know it. I've actually had as much success reeling quick when I feel a bite as I do jerking the rod to set the hook. I'm not sure why, but perhaps their buck-canine teeth and thick skin requires a little different hook-setting technique (or maybe I'm simply lucky).
Be sure also to have your drag set. Triggerfish hit medium tackle pretty good, not tuna good mind you, but good for a fish that is really only about a foot long on average.
Landing The Fish
Not much to say here, other than to be careful of the sharp fin that sticks out the top. I've beat up a few cheap nets on that fin. Watch out for the teeth too. Triggerfish have almost human-looking teeth in a really small, compact mouth that is designed for smashing through mussels and other hard-shell creatures.
I hope this helps you catch triggerfish at the New Jersey shore.
Get Bent on July 20, 2020:
I have caught Triggerfish the past 2 trips out for Sea Bass, same rigs using salted clams....they taste great also.
TurtleDog (author) on September 06, 2012:
Thanks Matt. Landing triggers are great fun on a medium rod and reel outfit. Glad you've seen them at Sheepshead bay charter. They are delicious to eat.
Matt on September 06, 2012:
Cool post bro. I've seen triggers popping up on a sheepshead bay charter. Good eating and fun to catch.