Gray triggerfish and ocean triggerfish are similar in appearance causing misidentification of these fish. While they are both members of the triggerfish family, they are separate species with very different regulations. For this reason, it is very important for harvesters to be able to correctly identify and differentiate each species.
So how do you tell them apart? There are several physical attributes that make each species unique and easy to identify. Gray triggerfish have bright blue spots and streaks on the upper portions of the head and body and white spots and streaks on the lower portions of the head and body. Gray triggerfish also have elongated filaments on the upper and lower rays of the tail fin. Ocean triggerfish are uniformly gray in color, have a black spot at the base of the pectoral fins, and have elongated second dorsal and anal fins that are more pointed than those of a gray triggerfish.
How are the regulations different? Gray triggerfish are managed and regulated in both state and federal waters of the Gulf and Atlantic. Conversely, ocean triggerfish are not regulated in state or federal waters; therefore, a default daily bag limit of 100 pounds per person applies and there are no size limits or closed seasons.
What are the regulations for Gray Triggerfish? In state waters, the minimum size limit is; Gulf – 14 inches (fork length), and Atlantic – 12 inches (fork length). The daily recreational bag limit in all state waters is 10 fish per person. In federal waters of the Gulf, the size limit is 14 inches (fork length) and the bag limit is 20 fish as part of a 20 fish snapper aggregate bag limit. In federal waters of the Atlantic, the size limit is 12 inches (total length) and the bag limit is 20 fish as part of an aggregate reef fish bag limit.
So, how are they measured? Throughout state waters of the Gulf and Atlantic, and federal waters of the Gulf, gray triggerfish are measured as a fork length which means the distance from the tip of the nose or mouth to the center rear edge of the tail fin. The elongated rays and filaments on the upper and lower edges of the tail are not used in the measurement. In federal waters of the Atlantic, the size limit is 12 inches and a total length measurement is used (excluding the filaments).
Why is this so important? Far too many undersized gray triggerfish are currently being harvested. Proper identification and measurement of gray triggerfish is important to the successful management of the species. You can facilitate management and improve gray triggerfish stocks by understanding this information and sharing it with others who harvest triggerfish.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.