Finescale Triggerfish

Order Tetraodontiformes — Triggerfishes — Family Balistidae

KJ and a Finescale Triggerfish from the Cabrillo Mole

Species: Balistes polylepis (Steindachner, 1876); Balistes comes from the Latin word ballista (a device that shoots arrows—referring to the trigger-like spine) and the Greek word polylepis (many scales)

Alternate Name: Triggerfish. In Mexico called cochi, puerco coche, cochito or pez puerco.

Identification: The body is very compressed; they have a small mouth containing strong, protruding teeth (8 in each jaw); 3 strong, sharp spines are located in the first dorsal fin with 26-28 rays in the second dorsal; small gill slits are located in front of the pectoral fin. The skin is thick with large, rectilinear, plate-like scales. The coloring is brownish with blue speckles on head.

Rita, Kyle and a Finescale Triggerfish from the Cabrillo Mole

Size: To 32 inches and perhaps as much as 16 pounds.

Range: San Antonio, Chile, to Metlakatla, (southeastern) Alaska) but considered rare north of Baja California.

Habitat: Generally found on the bottom, nearshore near rocky reefs, but they can range down to 1,680 feet deep. Some have arrived north during the El Niño years and it’s speculated that there are at least three established groups near Redondo Beach, Santa Monica and Catalina. They feed on a variety of bethnic-invertebrates such as snails, sponges, sea urchins, shrimp, and crabs as well as the occasional fish and are most active during the day.

The teeth are useful on some of the tough critters they eat.

Piers: Reported from the Redondo Beach Pier, Redondo Sportfishing Pier, Santa Monica Pier, and Cabrillo Mole in Avalon.

Shoreline: Several have been caught from the shoreline at Catalina and the jetty at Redondo Beach.

A Finescale Triggerfish caught from the rocks at Catalina by Jeff (Salty)

Boats: A fairly rare species for California boaters.

Bait and Tackle: Will take most bait including squid, market shrimp, and ghost shrimp.

Food Value: Excellent, all-white fillets that can be cooked many ways. The only problem is that the skin is like leather so you need a good, sharp fillet knife.

A Finescale Triggerfish caught from the Redondo Sportfishing Pier

Comments: Considered a fairly rare species in California although just enough fish are caught to keep it interesting. I’ve caught three—one in Maui, one while fishing out of Rancho Buena Vista in Baja California, and one from the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon.

A Finescale Triggerfish taken from the Redondo Beach Pier

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