Image credit: Dave Clausen - Contact
Habitat and Distribution
This species occurs in temperate and tropical areas of both the East and West Atlantic. In the western Atlantic, it inhabits rocky and coral reefs, sand and seagrass bottoms from Nova Scotia to Argentina, including the Gulf of Mexico.
Spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico
This species spawns from May through August in the GOM, with peak spawning during June and July.
Gray Triggerfish form resident aggregations of demersal nests that are built on sand adjacent to reefs. They have a haremic mating system consisting of a single territorial male and one to five females. Dominant males build and maintain 1 to 13 nests, which they aggressively defend against other male gray triggerfish and other fishes. Spawning occurs in pairs within the nest, and post-fertilization females remain on the nest and guard and maintain the eggs.
Fishing Patterns in Relation to Spawning
Commercial landings are highest from March through May, which overlaps with the first month of spawning, although average monthly landings are similar during spawning and non-spawning months. Recreational landings are greatest during the beginning of the spawning season and remain high throughout peak spawning and then decline in Oct. Average monthly landings are consistently greater during spawning months than non-spawning months.
Management of Spawning Aggregations
The commercial fishery for Gray Triggerfish is subject to an annual catch limit in federal waters. The recreational fishery in federal waters is subject to a daily catch limit of 2 that must fit within a 20 reef fish total. In state waters, commercial catch limits range from daily quotas to annual quotas, but catch limits are not set in all states. Recreational catch limits in state waters either mirror federal limits or are less restrictive. The commercial and recreational fisheries are closed Jun. 1 - Jul. 31. The recreational fishery may also have in season closures. The seasonal closures coincide with peak spawning months. Madison Swanson, Steamboat Lumps and the Edges are closed year round. The minimum size is 14" FL for commercial and recreational.