How to Catch Triggerfish on the Fly

by David McKenna

Once brushed aside when spotted on the flats, in the past few years, Triggerfish have become a highly sought after target when their forked tails and fins are flapping on the surface of tropical flats. Believe it or not, they range as far north in the Atlantic as Nova Scotia and as far south as the coast of Argentina. While they may not very targetable on the fly when they're not in shallow water, the tropical flats of the Caribbean (like those around our HQ at Fly Fish Guanaja) are the perfect zone to hook and land one of these picky, coral-crunching tailers.

Where to Look for Triggerfish

For the purposes of this blog, we're going to assume that you are looking to chase Triggers on the warm tropical flats of the Caribbean where they are found in great numbers. Some of our favorite areas to look for trigs is in areas where the bottom transitions from one type to another. Specifically, the margins of Turtle Grass patches, where sandy flats meet coral, and rocky shorelines. In these areas, you'll likely see triggers cruising around kissing the bottom while they attempt to suck unsuspecting shrimp and crabs into their puckered mouths.

Gear and Rigging Advice

Possibly one of the best aspects of Triggerfish is their willingness to eat just about any well-presented permit or bonefish fly, meaning that unless you're using light tippet, you won't need to re-rig when you spot a trigger on the flat. As far as leader and tippet go, you'll want to go about as heavy as you can without spooking the fish. Triggers love to fight dirty and will do their best to break you off on anything they can wrap the line around, or they'll dive deep into their favorite coral hole. This means that your usual 8 WT Bonefish setup or 10 WT Permit rig will do just fine to deliver shrimp and crab flies to your intended spade-shaped targets, and stop them in their tracks once your fly finds purchase in their toothy jaws.

Flies for Triggerfish

When trigger fish are on the flats, they're looking for the same quarry that Permit and Bonefish are after: crabs and shrimp. So if you've been having luck on a bonefish pattern, the odds are high that a trigger will take a look at it. These fish all have different personalities, and every trigger will react differently to certain fly patterns, so you want to make sure you have some diversity in color, size and pattern in your fly box. Our favorite patterns to toss at tailing triggers are our Guide Flexos, Kung Fu Crab Jr.'s and our Guide Spawning Shrimp.

The biggest consideration you need to make before tying on a fly is the hook strength, because triggers spend most of their lives chewing on coral, their jaws and teeth are crazy strong and can bend a hook closed. This is why you should bring plenty of flies with you on your next triggerfish mission.

Take the guesswork out of selecting or tying your triggerfish flies by picking up one of our Custom Triggerfish Fly Kits. They've got all the flies you need to hook into one of the most entertaining fish on the flats!

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