Florida Opens Recreational Harvest of Triggerfish for Three Weekends in October

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

If you went red snapper fishing this year, you were most likely very frustrated by catching triggerfish instead of the intended snapper. It was also probably the first time in your life you had been disappointed to pull up a triggerfish.

Trigger Fishing Season in Florida waters

Before this year, I would go on the hunt to find triggerfish-only honey holes. I wanted to have spots specifically for triggerfish because, well, what’s not to love about triggerfish? Fun to catch, a really unique looking fish and so, so dang good to eat!

When the Federal Government closed the triggerfish season for the entire 2017 calendar year in Federal waters, I don’t think anyone expected to have many of their favorite Red snapper spots over-run with triggerfish. As soon as snapper season opened, it seemed as though someone let all the triggerfish know that the government had them on the protected list. So it was a summer-long binge eating party on everyone’s snapper spots. I have never caught so many, nor so many really big triggerfish as I did this summer. And of course, I had certainly never thrown back so many either! Well, thanks to our neighbors to the east, that all changes for the next three weekends.

The state of Florida has opened the recreational harvest of triggerfish for this weekend (October 7- 8) and two more weekends (October 14-15, 21-22) in Florida state waters (out to nine nautical miles). The recreational harvest of triggerfish or the possession of triggerfish in Federal waters remains prohibited. What does this mean for Alabama residents wanting to target triggerfish? There are just a few simple rules to follow according to Alabama Marine Law Enforcement Officer Chris Cox.

“First, you must possess both an Alabama fishing license and an out-of-state Florida fishing license,” said Cox. Then it is up to you on how you want to plan your trip. If you want to target other species that are open in Federal waters, you will need to make that the first part of your trip. You can still catch and be in possession of beeliners, white snapper, king mackerel or anything else that is in season, but you can’t catch triggerfish in Florida state waters and then have them on your boat in Federal waters.

So either end your day by catching triggerfish or make it a triggerfish only trip if you are an Alabama resident according to Cox. “Once you have caught your triggerfish and are returning to Perdido Pass, it is very important that you do not stop in Alabama waters unless there is an emergency on your boat. Proceed directly to the no wake zone under the Perdido Pass bridge.” This simply means once you leave Florida waters head straight back to the boat launch or your dock. Don’t decide to troll the beach, or do any kind of fishing on the way in. This eliminates anglers from fishing in Alabama waters while being in possession of triggerfish which are currently out of season in Alabama.

If you have any spots in Florida state waters, either public or private numbers, that you have fished for red snapper in the past, that would be a good place to look for triggerfish.

Triggerfish have much smaller mouths than snapper, so using smaller hooks will result in more fish being caught and less of the dreaded peck-peck-pecking away at your bait. Although, as big as the triggerfish were that we all seemed to be catching this summer I was shocked at the size circle hooks they were able to get into their mouths. I would still recommend downsizing your hook size and using cut bait such as squid.

Follow a few basic Alabama marine rules and for the next three weekends you’ll quickly regain your excitement of catching the highly prized triggerfish.

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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1326 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…