The grey triggerfish is a triggerfish of the western Atlantic, found from Nova Scotia to Argentina. It is also reported from the Mediterranean sea and off Angola on the west coast of Africa. It has also been reported in the Gulf of Mexico in depths of 5-10 feet.
In its appearance and habits, the Gray Triggerfish is a typical member of the Balistes family except for its drab, uniformly gray coloration. It is a relatively small fish, usually less than 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds) in weight.
The Gray Triggerfish is a notorious bait stealer, found over hard bottom in 20 to 40 meter (60 to 120 foot) depths off the Atlantic Coast of Florida often in association with Black Sea Bass and Red Snapper.
As a diurnal predator, the gray triggerfish feeds primarily on benthic invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and bivalve mollusks. During one study, triggerfish were observed displaying an interesting feeding behavior. They moved away from their reef home, out over sand, and assumed a vertical position a few inches above the bottom. The fish directed a stream of water at the sand with enough force to reveal sand dollars living below the surface. If none were present, the fish moved about three feet away and continued this behavior. When the triggerfish was successful at exposing a sand dollar, it repeated the blowing action, further exposing the prey. Next, the triggerfish darted in, grabbing the sand dollar with its beak-like teeth, lifting it above the bottom and dropping it. This process was repeated until the sand dollar landed upside down. This was followed by the triggerfish assuming a vertical position over the sand dollar, and with jaws closed, thrusting downward, crushing the center. The fish then ate the soft inside tissues of the sand dollar. Triggerfish also locate and eat sea urchins in a similar manner. Juvenile triggerfish associated with sargassum communities feed on algae, hydroids, barnacles, and polychaetes.
Clams are the bait of choice when targeting triggerfish. Other good baits include Asian shore crabs, fiddlers, green crabs, or shrimp.
Despite its tough skin, with a texture resembling concrete, it is an excellent food-fish.
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