gray triggerfish

Scientific Name

Balistes capriscus

Common Name


Stock Status

Overfishing – No

Overfished – No

Stock Assessments

SEDAR 62 to be continued


Recreational Regulations

Federal Regulations

  • Closed: January 01 – March 01

    Open: March 01 – May 31

    Closed: June 01 – July 31

    Open: August 01 – December 31

  • 1 Bag Limit
  • 20 Aggregate Limit
  • Minimum Size: 15 in Fork Length
  • Additional Licenses Required: Beginning July 1, 2020, anglers intending to land this species in Florida are required to sign up as a Florida State Reef Fish Angler if they fish from a private recreational boat and are 16 years of age and older. To sign up, call 1-888-347-4356.
  • Gear Description: Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. At least one dehooking device is required and must be used to remove hooks.

  • Notes:

    Anglers required to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish species in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. For more information, see NOAA Descend Act.

    To see commercial regulations, download Fish Rules Commercial App for iOS devices or Android devices.

Commercial Regulations

Harvest Limits

Sector Annual Catch Limit
Stock   305,300 pounds
Commercial    64,113 pounds
Recreational   241,187 pounds


Additional Informaton


Gray triggerfish, also known as triggerfish or leatherjackets, are prevalent in temperate and tropical areas of the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia, throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico, and Bermuda through the Caribbean to Argentina. They are also found in the eastern Atlantic near the Mediterranean Sea. Its coloration is solid gray; occasionally three faint irregular broad dark bars can be seen on the body along with small light blue spots on the upper half of the body and fins. It has a small mouth and distinct spines on its dorsal fins. The stock is not experiencing overfishing but was designated as overfished after SEDAR 43. Subsequently, the Council modified the overfished status determination criteria which changed the gray triggerfish stock status to not overfished but rebuilding.

Gulf Stock Characteristics (SEDAR 43 2015)

Natural mortality rate (M): 0.27 (SEDAR 9 Update; unchanged in SEDAR 43 2015)
Reproductive maturity: Females are 50% mature at 1.5 years (6 inches FL) & 100% mature by age-2
Maximum age: 15 years
Maximum weight: 13.2 lbs (6.0 kg) whole weight
Maximum length: 23.2 inches (59.0 cm) FL
Discard mortality: ~5.0% (SEDAR 43 2015)

Life History and Distribution (SEDAR 43 2015)

Gray triggerfish are common on natural reefs and artificial structures. Early life history studies indicate young fish, after hatching, are associated with floating Sargassum and remain up in the water column for 4 to 7 months before settling to benthic habitats. In the Gulf of Mexico, adults may spawn as early as May and as late as August, with peak spawning occurring in June and July. Adult male fish reach significantly larger sizes than females and are territorial, particularly during spawning. Male fish build demersal nests in the sand around reefs and attract females to spawn in harem groups. Females remain on the nest to guard and fan the eggs for 24-48 hours.