Anglers landing triggerfish…in bay and offshore

No Fluke


Gray triggerfish (balistes capriscus) have been caught off our coastal shores for many years. Their elegant look with a wide separation between their mouth and eyes, gives them an appearance of a warm water tropical fish. They are also used as show fish in public aquariums. However, the gray triggerfish appears in warm and cold climates. Its geographic distribution in the western Atlantic Ocean is from Nova Scotia, southeast to Bermuda and south to Argentina as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

Captain Joe Pagano of Stuff-It Charters said, "We would catch very large trigger fish (they can weigh up to 13 pounds and grow to 30 inches) off Fort Wetherill, Jamestown." John Rainone, captain of L'il Toot Charters out of Pt. Judith said, "We caught a large one today (Monday) while tautog fishing and I was going to have it for dinner." Trigger fish are good to eat. They reach sexual maturing and are able to spawn at two years old (about 12 inches). So although gray triggerfish do not have a management plan in Rhode Island today, it is important to sustain a fishery and not take a fish before it can spawn.

Triggerfish prefer hard bottoms, reefs, and ledges and is abundant near shore and offshore. Captain Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters said, "We usually catch them off the Southeast Light (Block Island) when we fish for scup." We caught a trigger fish when fishing on Seal Ledge off Newport last month using green crabs for bait while tautog fishing and Alysse McLaren caught one a few days ago when fishing near the Spindle in the middle of Narragansett Bay using squid.

The Florida Museum of Natural History said that the gray triggerfish has been observed displaying an interesting feeding behavior. Triggerfish assumed a vertical position (over sand) a few inches above the bottom. The fish directed a stream of water at the sand with enough force to reveal sand dollars. When successfully exposing a sand dollar, the fish would grab the sand dollar lifting it above the bottom and dropping it until it landed upside down. This was followed by the triggerfish assuming the vertical position again and with jaws closed, thrusting downward, crushing the center and then eating the soft inside.

Shellfish symposium Nov. 14

The 12th Annual Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium, "The Future of Shellfish in Rhode Island: Providing sustainable seafood, economic opportunities, and ecosystem benefits," will be held November 14 at the Radisson Hotel, Warwick, RI. The current and the potential value---economic and environmental---of shellfish to Rhode Island will be discussed. The sessions will focus on restoration and public aquaculture, commercial aquaculture, commercial wild harvest, water quality, and the "Go Local" movement. Registration is $45. Student rate and industry scholarships are available at $20. For information and to register, contact Deborah Lafen at (401) 874-6645.

Where's the bite

Tautog fishing is improving. Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, "Fred Bowman of Wakefield landed a 10.7 pound tautog in lower Narragansett Bay this weekend." Angler Charlie Prisco of Warwick and his wife Carole landed some nice keeper tautog at Hope Island in high wind conditions last week. Angler Bob Oberg said, "Anchored over tautog in my kayak for the first time (Saturday at Hope Island)… Started out on the Southwest corner but moved quickly because there was a seal causing a little commotion on top of the water and, I am sure, a lot more below. Set up at the southern end. Landed about 15 togs, most, by some seeming conspiracy, 15" long. Caught three keepers for the table, including a nice five-pounder. All in 25-30 feet of water." John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & tackle, East Providence said, "Upper Bay tautog fishing is improving with about a ten to one keeper ratio with fish being caught in the Warren River, at Wharf Tavern and Conimicut Light."

Striped bass fishing is still good in spots with a lot of school bass being caught in the Bay and off coastal shores. John Littlefield of Archie's said, "Keeper bass in the high teens and low twenty pound range are still being caught in the Warren River at night with eels. Bluefish in the four to six pound range are being caught at Sabin Point." Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina said, "The North Rip at Block Island was proving more fruitful for some anglers than the southwest side of the Island." Angler Mike Swain said, "We hooked up with school bass at Hope Island this weekend and fished north of Conimicut Light. No keeper bass but large bluefish. Upper Bay and the Providence River were loaded with Atlantic Menhaden."

Shore fishing for striped bass. Steve McKenna noted local shore fishermen and Quaker Lane Outfitters associate said, "I wish I could tell you that the fall run thus far has been good but I can't, at least by my experiences. I have been out several times since 10-1 and have only a hand full of school bass for my efforts. I have mostly fished along the Narragansett and South County shore lines. However, some of my buddies have reported to me a real upswing in the surf fishing since the beginning of the month but they still maintain that overall the fall of 2013 thus far has not been good."

Bonito. Noted Rhode Island angler and author Dave Pickering said, "We were sitting on a big pile of bait (bay anchovies) about a mile off the south shore (Saturday) while fishing from my brother's boat. There were birds diving from above and fish whirling from below. Under the bait were good numbers of stripers, bluefish and black sea bass. There were times when my brother Steve, my son, Ben, and I would all be on a fish at the same time… On occasion we would notice a big blast through the bait. We assumed it was either big blues or maybe a false albacore, though I had not heard of any albies in the area. I casted my Zoom fluke on a jig head into some breaking fish. I had a hit, hooked it, and the fish was off, screaming line off the reel and digging deep in the 30 feet of water we were fishing. This fight went on for a while with shorter runs as I got the fish closer to the boat. Once near the boat, I could not believe that I had a good size bonito (about ten pounds), the first I have landed in years."

Cod fishing remains good. Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, "Monday's cod trip was the best for size with several cod that were in the 25 to 28 pound range… Folks remember to keep that drag set on a setting that allows some forgiveness and lets the big cod dig for the bottom. For reasons many of us do not really understand the bigger cod are often not hooked all that well and in the relatively shallow waters we fish they can easily rip a hook out on their journey to the surface… Just about all of the cod have been taken on bait this past week."

Freshwater fishing is good with anglers landing trout in ponds stocked by DEM a couple of weeks ago (visit for a listing). John Littlefield said, "Both the Brickyard and Echo Pound in Barrington (near the YMCA) have been good for bass with anglers landing fish using shiners."

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit his website at


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