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Another New State Record Triggerfish Caught

December 1, 2004

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife has certified another new state record triggerfish.

Paul Kaessler of Colonia, New Jersey caught the 4 pound, 10 ounce triggerfish on the Shrewsbury Rocks in Monmouth County on October 2. It weighed 2 ounces more than the previous record taken from Great Bay.

Kaessler’s fish is the third record triggerfish certified by the Division since late September. According to marine fisheries biologists, triggerfish were particularly abundant in state waters this fall and their increased presence could be the reason so many large fish are being caught and submitted to the Record Fish Program.

Kaessler, who has been fishing for 25 years, anchored his boat and was casting out squid when he caught the fish on 20-pound test line. It measured 19 ¼ inches in length. The trip started out as a successful outing for sea bass until Paul noticed his rod bend a little more forceful than usual. While reeling it in, he was surprised at what a good fight the fish was displaying. Near the surface he realized that this was no sea bass, but a mammoth triggerfish. He caught another later that day, but it didn’t compare to what he brought in earlier.

Triggerfish have a flat, compressed body with a shape somewhere between round and rectangular. They are often very colorful. Triggerfish sport three dorsal (back) spines, the first of which is the longest and thickest. When in danger, the normally solitary triggerfish will seek safety in a small cave or crevice within a reef, raise their dorsal spine and wedge themselves firmly in place.

The species is named for the interlocking arrangement of the bases of the three dorsal spines so that the first can be fixed in an erect position. If one depresses the second or "trigger" spine, the locking mechanism on the longer first spine is released.

A triggerfish’s diet consists of hard-bodied prey including scallops, clams, barnacles and sand dollars. These fish are equipped with extremely powerful jaw muscles and teeth that are used to crush their prey.

Preferred habitats for this species in New Jersey include wrecks, reefs and along bay sod banks. Triggerfish are often caught by anglers and are excellent to eat.

The Record Fish Program recognizes the largest species of fish caught in the state. It revolves around a specific list of eligible freshwater and saltwater species, and is based on weight alone; there are no line classes. Scale certification documentation, including the Certificate of Inspection / Test Report and Registration Certificate issued by the New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures, as well as a weighmaster’s signature, are necessary. Other rules apply.

For more information or to request an application, call 609-633-7768. Visit the Division’s Website at for a complete list of state record fish.

See photo.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: December 1, 2004