British Marine Life Study Society

Left Click for a detailed imageLeft Click for a detailed imagePhotographs by Paul Parsons
Common Name(s):
File Fish (incorrectly)

Gourounopsaro = Pigfish (Greece & Cyprus)
Scientific Name:
 Balistes capriscus
(= B. carolinensis

Usual Size:  to 40 cm
> 2.5 kg (angling record)

            Photographs by  Paul Parsons (Aquapix)

More information below.

Fishbase entry (Link)

Dorsal Fin
All trigger fishes are characterised by an unusual dorsal fin arrangement. The first dorsal spine is very strong and is so arranged that it is connected in function with the second spine. The fish wedges itself into a crevice for safety and secures itself there by erecting the strong first spine and locking it into position with the second. When the second spine is depressed it acts as a trigger to unlock the first spine. 

Similar species: 

The jaw of the Triggerfish contains eight strong incisor teeth which it uses to chisel holes in mussels and other hard shelled molluscs to get at the soft flesh inside (see Glaucus 06.01.13). It can also attack and eat crabs.


  • 23 September 2000
  • Trigger fish washed up on W coast of Isle of Lewis, NW Scotland 

  • Image File  trigger.jpg (36K) 
    Uploaded  02 Dec 2000 
    by  Paul Tyler 
  • 7 November 1999
  • I know they appear quite regularly in fishermen's nets, but on our recent fishing club outing  from Littlehampton, West Sussex, (approx. 10 miles south of the port) one of our members caught a Trigger Fish of 1077 grams (2 lb 6 oz).
  • Report by Chris Everson (Worthing)
  • When I first started compiling the list of the rarer fish from off Sussex in 1959, the Trigger Fish was rare in the eastern English Channel. The first one was taken in 1967 from a lobster pot off Worthing. Since then, a large number have been taken each year. In 1995, one trawler had 9 in one haul. They were all returned to the sea alive. This fish is easy to keep in large Public Aquaria and one was usually on show at the old Brighton Aquarium, now the Brighton Sea Life Centre
  • by the late John Barker (Shoreham-by-Sea
  • A large school of these fish have been resident under the Mumbles Pier, near Swansea,  for many years now as can be attested by the local anglers who catch them every summer, with weights of 1 kg to 2 kg being the norm. I have never seen a young or baby Triggerfish nor heard of one being seen or caught so we have to assume that they are summer visitors.  
  • by Jim Hall (Swansea)

  • There are several mysteries surrounding the behaviour and occurrence of this fish in British seas. Chris Clark, who as an angling writer, has many contacts around these islands and lives in Hampshire, assures me that Triggerfish congregate before returning west to warmer waters in late September. 

  • The second puzzle is their path of arrival. Peter Glanvill, in the article in the Winter 1995 issue of Glaucus, Trigger Fish on the Royal Adelaide, thought that the fish followed the northern English Channel coast eastwards and settled around wrecks and rocky outcrops. Records from Cornwall are always earlier in the year. There are very few records from the Brittany coast but there are not many areas where the fish can be caught by anglers from the shore in France. 
  • I've been picking up dead Triggerfish up off the beach in Cornwall since 1991. I keep records of every fish I find, and I take most of them home with me, either to eat (they are always fresh) or to hang up to dry, their skin goes hard and leathery and they make good ornaments (outside). They wash in after Christmas when the sea temperature has dropped, in significant numbers (the most I found was 55 on Constantine Bay). My theory is that they can't take the drop in sea temperature, although they always wash in after a storm and ground sea, so perhaps its the rough weather they find difficult?  By the way, they are also a common by-catch in lobster pots during the summer months. 
  • 1995.  The seas of the coast of Norway were exceptionally warm and several Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus were caught, probably for the first time. Book.
Additional Notes:
  • Chronological listings with the earliest at the top
  • It seems that for an unknown number of years large numbers of Trigger Fish have visited the wreck of the Royal Adelaide, off Dorset,  between August and October. The numbers dwindle during their stay, probably due to depredations made by anglers. 
  • Triggerfish off Dorset
  • August 1998
  • Mumbles Pier, Swansea, SW Wales, is a good place for non-divers to see the Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus. For the last decade they have come regularly to the pier to feed on the large clumps of mussels that adorn the pier supports. In the clear shallow water they can be seen clearly from above and they will move along under the pier with the human watcher. This is certainly because they are fed by the visitors. 
  • Report by Jim Hall.
  • Triggerfish under Mumbles Pier (Full Report)
  • Triggerfish in Rare Fish Records (BMLSS Ireland)
  • Triggerfish (UK Aquarium Database)

  • In October 1997, a school of about 1000 Triggerfish were reported at a dive site called Stack Rocks, near Littlehaven, SW Wales. A shoal was seen on the Hen & Chicks, where well over a 1000 were spotted. It was at the end of October and they must have been about to go back to more tropical waters. They were so docile that you were able to touch them, and stroke their bellies. 
    Divers filmed and photographed a large group of Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on Tuesday 11th Sept 2001 whilst diving on the Hen & Chicks at Littlehaven, South West Wales. 

    11 September 2001
    My buddy counted 31 fish in the group I was photographing at a dive site calledStack Rocks, near Littlehaven, SW Wales and another pair of divers counted over 50 on a different part of the reef.
    Each year the Triggers gather around these reefs and stay for about a month
    before moving off?
    I have read conflicting reports about these fish. Some say they are weak
    swimmers and die off as the sea temperature drops and yet others say they
    swim back to where the came from.
    Any ideas?
    Description of Hen & Chicks Rocks: No mussels but thousands of empty clam shells that make up a large part of the seabed. There are many rocky areas and islands around Pembrokeshire but H&C is very close to a sandy beach and is fairly sheltered.
    Paul Parsons

    Gathering of Trigger fish found at Littlehaven Pembrokeshire Wales 2001.
    Video still by Robert Walker. (Click on the above text for the image.) 

  • On 15 February 1997, a small 10 cm Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered by John Makeham, in fishing  nets in Looe Harbour. This is a very early record of a Triggerfish. In the last decade adult fish have been regularly caught by anglers and fishermen and seen by divers in Cornish waters and in Lyme Bay, Dorset during the summer and autumn. However, this is the first record of a young specimen caught in winter. 

  • Graham Pickett (MAFF) reports the incidental capture of a specimen in Southampton water in a routine beam trawl in late September 1992. It was about 40 cm long. A further two were captured in the trawl in the east Solent, south of Hayling Island. The latter are authenticated reports east of the Isle of Wight. In 1992, fishermen reported catches of this fish off Sussex in large numbers, instead of the odd one, for the first time. 

    Chris Clark has caught Triggerfish on many occasions on rod and line. All captured specimens are returned which is certainly becoming the practice amongst sport anglers. Chris reports that the fish fight hard and are very hardy and returns are likely to have a 90% survival rate. 

  • Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, have been caught in trammel nets off Sussex this spring, 1997.  About 35 fish have been caught this way. Triggerfish have been caught in autumn before off  Sussex, but this is the first time they have been caught in spring. This could indicate a  breeding population in the English Channel.
  • by the late John Barker (Shoreham-by-Sea) 
    A Triggerfish was seen off Hen & Chicks, Pembrokeshire (approx. SM 820129) when diving on 7 August 1999. Identification confirmed by discussion with staff at West Wales Divers and from Hamlyn Guide. I was told that they only appeared briefly at this time of year.
    Report from Gill (sent in by Andrew Jenkinson)
    Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, this time.

    6-11/9/99 Palace Pier, Brighton
    Depth 9.1 m-  Visibility 6 m
    A pair of Trigger fish were video'd and photographed at the very end of the
    Pier. They were sighted for over a week then the sea became undivable into the
    My first encounter was with a single fish which had found a 12" square pipe as a home. It would swim around the area and return to the pipe. The fish would enter the pipe for 30-60 seconds then come out for another swim around. This enabled me to get some shots as it returned to the pipe. The next night I returned on my own and used a complete roll of film on the same Trigger ( had a white scare on its side) The film was useless due to setting the flash gun to over expose instead of under! but after leaving the scared fish I was quickly approached by another, which was quite a shock in pitch black water. Saturday morning we dived at 7:45 and saw the two Triggers together in the same area, they appeared to have some territories mapped out and took turns in chasing each other off.

    Report by Paul Parsons

    Trigger Fish on the Royal Adelaide
    More Information (John Liddiard External Site)

    circa 1996
    Ten boxes of Triggerfish caught off Sussex brought in to market.
    Alan Minter (Shoreham-by-Sea)
    This is the second report of this catch which seems exaggerated.

    19 August 2001
    We were diving off Muck and Eigg  (Scottish islands off the west coast) on Sunday and along with several sightings of Minke Whales, dolphin and porpoise while underway on the MV Mary Doune two pairs of divers reported sighting of a single Trigger fish  Ballistes carolinensis we reckon. 

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Russel Parker)

    This is the first time the boat skipper, Andy Tibbets, has had one reported to him. Apparently a lobster fisherman reported one in a creel locally a couple of years back - their very unusual this far north.
    Jim Anderson

    August 2001
    Triggerfish are also being brought in by fishermen in a variety of pots and fishing methods from around the Channel Islands as is usual at this time of the year.

    "2 August 2001 - Joe Nichols caught two triggerfish in his pots today. One was in a parlour pot and another in an inkwell pot.  He was potting at the back of the Grandes Brayes, north-west of Platte Fougere (approx. location based on description 49° 31.5 N and 002° 29.5 W.)  His pots were over rough ground in about 100 feet of water.  One triggerfish weighed about 1 lb. and the other 2 lb. Clinton Downes from the Guernsey Fishermen's Trading Company told me that another crab potter caught 4 Triggerfish earlier in the week.

    Report by Richard Lord (Guernsey)

    1986-7 When I was potting to the SE of Jersey  near the Brett Beacon in 6 to 8 metres of water I would catch at least one a week in the pots around august and september, I vaguely recollect catching three in one day, another fisherman said he was catching a few on the north coast near Les Dirouilles, the terrain would have been similar to where I was fishing rock and sand, with strong tidal currents (a food supply?). They snap or click their teeth when out of water. The bait in the pots was Horse Mackerel (Scad).

    2001; a lot were seen last week in the harbour of St.Helier during the night time they were on the surface of the water, under the harbour lights, they were squirting out jets of water! perhaps this is a fishing technique?

      Nicolas Jouault from Jersey
    September 2001
    This week's local paper has an account with photo of a trigger fish caught
    last weekend off Gairloch by local fishermen (wrongly identified as a 'file
    fish'). It doesn't say how it was caught (net or creel).
    From: Paul Tyler <>

    1 September 2001
    Two miles or so from Muckross Head just outside Killybegs, Donegal. It was a good day  rain was on and off but the sun was out. The fish were fighting good, a nice blue grey colour with nice big sharp front teeth top and bottom we caught about 10-15 fish some fell foul of the ropes in harbour they where caught on mackerel and limpets.

    Portreath Triggerfish (Photograph by Stephen Summers)15 November 2001
    This Grey Triggerfish measured 21 cm overall (caudal peduncle to the mouth), with the tail adding a further 5 cm. It weighed 250 g and was in very good condition when it was washed up dead on Portreath beach, Cornwall. 
    Report by Stephen Summers

    18 November 2001
    Triggerfish in fine condition were discovered inhabiting the undersea chalk cliff face known as the Worthing Lumps, about 3 miles off the Sussex coast. About 15 adult fish were found, most of them inhabiting the rock crannies in the clear cold (12° C) water, but one fish ventured out into the open. Divers rarely have the opportunity to observe Triggerfish in the winter because of the inclement weather restricts the diving opportunities. 

    Today, Sun 18th November, we dived at a site locally known as the Worthing lumps off of Sussex. GPS N50º 43' 56'. W000º 24' 21'
    About three miles south of Worthing.

    The key feature of this site is the meandering chalk cliff. 
    In this area, dived today, the cliff stood at approx. 3m high in 16m depth of water. The visibility was a very good 6m and the water temperature was 12ºc. We dived at 12 pm on a 6.1m high tide (measured at Shoreham, High Tide at 1.02 pm).

    We swam along the foot of the cliff into a slight current following it's contour. I tucked into a 4m wide "cove" in the cliff and came face to face with three Grey Triggerfish hovering together. I had to do a double take as I could not believe I was seeing these fish right here on our doorstep.

    Two Triggers disappeared but the remaining fish took such an interest in my camera (probably it's own reflection?) that it allowed me to stroke it down it's side (don't ask me why, this is not the Blue Planet!) This fish gave me a real good look-over 
    and was even ok when our bubbles passed over it.

    There was a vertical, 30 cm wide crack in the cliff which had six Triggers sheltering in. Further along the cliff face we found another gap which contained seven more Trigs' In all, a total of fifteen were counted.

    All the Triggerfish IMHO were adult, in good healthy condition with no physical damage I.E. scars or wounds and appeared to be as alert as any other Triggerfish I have seen earlier in the year.

    An excellent dive.

    Report by Paul Parsons
    26 November 2001
    Diving on the Royal Adelaide with two friends, I discovered that 30+ Triggerfish were still there. 
    Report by Mike Foster

    23 December 2001
    Whilst walking on the shoreline east of White Rock (La Tour de Rozel) I came across a dead Trigger fish which appeared to have had most of its flesh eaten away by rats, it was near the spring tide high water mark of last week, which would concur with my view on the approximate date of death. From what remained of the fish it appeared to have been healthy and there were no apparent signs of death, I would estimate the weight to have been under 500 g ( 14 oz) when alive.
    The winds have been onshore on this NE corner of Jersey all week.
    Trigger fish have been caught in the nearby area by shore anglers, and Les Dirouilles where potters report catching trigger fish is only a distance of four miles to the north.
             Cheers Nicolas Jouault   from snow free Jersey    ( cold enough for it)

    26 December 2001
    As weather turns colder with nights below zero ° C, scores of dead Triggerfish have been washed up dead on the Cornish coast.
    Tony Davis found 13  dead Triggerfish  scattered along the strandline at Perranporth, Cornwall. They varied from 15 to 18 inches in length at were found at grid ref. SW 7657 and adjacent squares.
    Richard Topsett found another eleven stranded Triggerfish - this time at Portreath, Cornwall.
    One washed up below below Halany, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (SV 908125) by Ren Hathway.
    28 December 2001
    Mrs Carol Richards found eight dead Triggerfish at Gwithian  (between Magor Rocks (SW 582423) and Strap Rocks (SW 577416).  One brought to me measured 23 cm between the front of head and start of the tail fin.
    Dick and Jane Darke found 1 at Watergate, (SW 86), 3 at Mawgan Porth (SW 8467) and 2 at Porthcothan (SW 8572).
    About the same date, Ed Schliffke  found  2 at Harlyn (SW 8775) and one at Treyarnon: (SW 8574) they measured 15 , 20 and 25 cm, measured to end of tail, not including filaments.
    One Triggerfish washed up at Porth Hellick (SV 928105) Isles of Scilly , by Ren Hathway. Porth Hellick is on the eastern side of the largest island of St. Mary's and is a sandy bay surrounded by rocky areas.
    1 January 2002
    More Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, are washed up dead on Cornish shores. The Hocking family (Sue, Richard, Emma and Rebecca) found eight Triggerfish on Porthtowan beach, Cornwall. 
    Isles of Scilly Reports:
    1 January 2002
    The Bar, Gugh, St Agnes: SV8860840  Paul Standcliffe
    Porth Loo, St Mary's SV908114 Paul Watts
    5 January 2002
    Porth Minnick, St Mary's SV917101 Ian Wrigley
    Old Town Beach, St Mary's SV913102  Ren Hathway and Ian Wrigley
    5-6 January 2002
    Two more Triggerfish on Portreath beach, Cornwall. Both fish are in good condition and the same size, they measure from the mouth to caudal peduncle 27 cm, and L.O.A. 35 cm.(Report by Stephen Summers)

    Reports from Stella Turk on the Cornish Mailing List

    Summer 2002
    There has been an almost complete absence of Triggerfish reports this year, although the fish was becoming so common that people may have neglected to send in the reports.
    (1 October 2002)
    Originally commented on by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
    on the  Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group
    We had seven brought in last year to the aquarium (Axmouth - Sea Discovery Centre), but no one has seen a single specimen this year! 
    Report by Jenny Nunn
    I saw no Triggerfish when diving the Royal Adelaide a few weeks ago (September 2002) which is the first time I haven't seen any for years.  One or two have been seen but not in the numbers previously seen.  19 September 2002
    None were seen under Palace Pier, Brighton, although a special check was not made in the are inhabited by Triggerfish on a previous occasion. 
    Report by Paul Parsons
    22 September 2002
    One of my diving companions spotted a Triggerfish on a dive off Logan Rock near Lands End, Cornwall, in shallow water dive between 7 and 14 metres.
    Report by Beckey Seeley
    29 September 2002
    No Triggerfish seen on Worthing Lumps, Sussex, although seen and photographed there in November 2001.
    Report by Paul Parsons
    Summer 2002
    None under Mumbles Pier, near Swansea, and only a handful (five known) caught in Oxwich Bay, SW Wales.

    5 October 2002
    My partner and I saw 20 to 30 Triggerfish at a dive site called Hen & Chicks in Pembrokeshire West Wales. They are here every season from June till about August, so was surprised to still see them this late. Water temperature was 19° C.

    Report from Wales
    26 December 2002
    Dead Triggerfish on Perranporth Beach, Cornwall
    Mark and Tricia Nicholson saw a dead Triggerfish on Perranporth beach, Cornwall,   estimated at being between 25 and 30 cm.  It was about half-way across the beach (on the Perranporth side of Flat Rocks).  The eyes were missing, but apart from that it was intact.
    1 January 2003
    My dog discovered a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, are washed up dead on the beach between Seascale and Sellafield (Cumbria). I recognised the body shape and the shell crunching type of teeth - this was confirmed by looking it up in my copy of the Readers Digest 'Field Guide to the Water Life of Britain'. It was 25 cm (10 in) long (including the tail fin).  Reports this far north are unusual, although there have been specimens washed up on much more northerly Scottish islands. 

    10 August 2003
    Only five Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the Adelaide yesterday but one looks 
    suspiciously like one I have seen in previous years - it has a very prominent scar on its forehead. If have decent photo will attempt comparison.

    Photograph Album (Peter Glanvill)

    14 August 2003
    Triggerfish return to Mumbles (see earlier entry)
    Under Mumbles Pier, Swansea, Wales, I encountered a large Triggerfish whilst hunting for nudibranchs. It was quite a large individual at least a foot long. The Trigger was quite tame and swam up to me until it was, at most, a couple of feet away and then it swam off.
    I kept a look out for others during my hunt but failed to spot any!

    Report by Helen Marshall (@ Swansea University)

    August 2003
    Local diver, Steve Knowles, reported Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, seen at about 15 metres off Little Ness on the east coast of the Isle of Man. Triggerfish have been reported before off the Isle of Man, but they are not common. 

    5 November 2003 
    A Triggerfish was washed up dead on Ringaskiddy slip in Cork Harbour. It is about 9 inches long overall , I have the corpse in my freezer. 
    I am involved with the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers so I was approached to identify it. I had seen pictures of one previously.

    27 December 2003
    My first Triggerfish of the winter, one is washed up dead at Watergate, one at Treyarnon and one at Constantine, (all Cornwall) all medium sized and fresh.

    4 January 2004
    Two Triggerfish were found dead on the beach at Gwithian, Cornwall.

    1. Tip of nose to extreme end of tail - 39 cm
        Tip of nose to crutch of tail - 33 cm

    2. Tip of nose to extreme end of tail - 37 cm
        Tip of nose to crutch of tail - 31 cm

    Both had eyes missing & other scavenger damage.

    11 July 2004
    Shoreham Port Open Day
    The Fish Festival display included a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, caught off Sussex the previous day.
    Image and Report (Link)

    A Triggerfish is caught in a net by a French visitor to Les Écréhous in the Channel Islands. 

    Late July 2004
    Last week I saw two Triggerfish whilst snorkelling off the north west coast of Guernsey.
    They were together, over sand, in 15 feet of water, in approximately 1 knot of tide.
    One of them appeared scarred with parts of its fins damaged.
    They seemed very tame, i.e. I could approach them to within almost touching distance. (This could explain why one looked like it had been in a fight !)
    Is this normal for Triggerfish, and if so why?
    Are they at the northern end of their range and therefore effected by the colder water temperatures?

    28 July 2004
    My little girl and I found a triggerfish of about 20 cm lying in the shallowest part of a gravel-bottomed rock pool at Saie Harbour on the North East coast of Jersey. This was  at midday, and the tide was returning. The fish was very languid and only flapped mildly when transferred to a bucket, erecting the front spine several times. It appeared to have some skin and scale damage, possibly from the sun or scuffing on the gravel bed of the pool, and the area around the spine appeared a little bloody. We returned it to a rock channel of shallow water and it circled us slowly, brushing against and passing between the legs of my little girl, before I tried to chase it out of the channel to  the sea. It seemed to revive after a few minutes back in the sea and put on several bursts of speed before passing out of the rocky channel into open water.
    I had only guessed that the fish was a Triggerfish before positively identifying it on your site. 
    I hope this information is of some use. I also hope that our "friendly" fish makes a full recovery!

    Report by Jonathan Scott
    31 July 2004
    The two Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, we saw underneath the Palace Pier, Brighton, were of different sizes the larger being darker in colour and about 30 cm from tooth to tail. They both looked healthy and lively. No signs of feeding, i.e. broken Mussel shells or Crab leftovers. Water temp 20° C, depth 9 metres.

    4 August 2004
    I was on the coast at Cwm Nash near Monknash in South Wales south of Bridgend last Wednesday  talking to a Bass angler when he hooked and landed a Trigger Fish (SS 901702). Looking in books in our Monks Wood library and pictures on the the internet I am sure that it
    was a Grey Trigger Fish (Balistes capriscus). I looked on the internet for who might be interested in the record and recognised the email address as yours! 

    Early August 2004
    After being on your web site trying to find info on Triggerfish I was surprised to see they were so wide spread, my husband and myself often fish of  the Mumbles Pier south west Wales and only last week my husband caught a  triggerfish the weight was just over 4 lb in weight we did not measure the fish so I cannot give you the length there have been a lot of Triggerfish caught off  the pier the smallest I have seen has been about 1½ lb. We have noticed that when you bring the fish out of the water the other Triggerfish seem to follow 
    we  have see in the region of 20 plus fish following one that has been caught. 
    The  bait we have been using  are mackerel, squid and worm but they seem to  prefer the squid, I hope this email helps in your observations on the Triggerfish. 

    Report by  Mrs Linda Short

    8 August 2004
    I caught a Triggerfish on a rod and line without out knowing what it was at first, near Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth, Dorset. There were three of them swimming together in the shallow water. 

    Report by Lin Roberts

    August 2004
    Jo and Holly Marriott went crab fishing from the outer harbour wall at Padstow with their Dad in late August. They were very surprised to see a large fish following their bacon bait as they pulled it in but were unable to identify it. Soon however they caught one with Mackerel bait and were then able to identify it as a large Triggerfish, it was the size of a dinner plate and approximately 2 lb in weight. They caught two more and a boy next to them caught one more, one was slightly bigger in size the other two smaller but about 1½ lb in weight. Each time they caught one it was followed to the surface by another so there must have been a shoal of them there.
    It was probably our most exciting crab fishing trip ever. We had read in the newspaper before our holiday that there were more triggerfish about but never expected to see one!

    Report by Jeremy Marriott
    August 2004
    In Sark, Channel Islands (N 49.42 / W02.36), some local rod & line fishermen have been catching significant numbers of Trigger Fish from the shore in mainly shallow waters above rocky bottoms.  Most catches appear to have occurred immediately before of just after high water.  The first catches started about two weeks ago in early August.  The fish sizes have varied and have not, as yet, been recorded very accurately.  Most of the fish have been returned to the sea.
    Report by Paul Armorgie
    21 August 2004
    I caught the Triggerfish below on Saturday 21/8/04 just off Aberthaw power station in south Wales. and have unidentified it thanks to your site. It was caught using a Ragworm and squid bait. It was put back alive. Sorry but I didn't measure or weight it
    Triggerfish (Photograph by Tony Brooke)
    Report by Tony Brooke

    September - October 2004
    Young Triggerfish, 10 cm long, have been caught from Weymouth Pier. This may prove, or at least give a very strong indication, that they are breeding off Dorset.

    December 2004 to January 2005
    There are at least a dozen reports of at least 16 Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, being found washed up dead on Cornish beaches, and these are probably only a fraction of the actual strandings. 
    Fish Strandings in Cornwall
    There were also reports from the Channel Islands. 

    26 December 2004
    We found a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the Daymer Bay Beach, north Cornwall. 
    It was about 40 - 50 cm long. Two other dead and smaller specimens were found on the north coast of Cornwall near Polzeath and on one of the beaches around Padstow. 

    Report by Morris Pentel

    11 August 2005
    Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were in shallow water in Long Quarry, Torquay, Devon,  patrolling around in threes. We caught two on road and line from the shore, both around a kilogram in weight. 

    Report by Nathan

    Triggerfish (Fish caught and photographed by Richard Harvey)22 August 2005
    I caught a monster Triggerfish on rod and line off Oxwich Point in south Wales in two metres of water. It was around 4.5 lb in weight. But it made such a hell of a fight, I thought I had caught a large Bass. The fish was returned to the sea unhandled. 

    Report by Richard Harvey

    29 January 2006
    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, had washed up dead on the beach west of Grand Avenue Worthing West Sussex, and the fish was beginning to smell a bit. 

    Marine Life Reports (Sussex)

    1 July 2006  4:30 pm
    Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, spotted along Cornish coastline, Rame Head Peninsula. Amazing. I had no idea what it was till researched on internet. It was about approximately 35 - 40 cm (taking into account 25% goggle effect), great condition and swimming alone. 

    23 July 2006
    Just for the record was diving at Devil's Point, Plymouth, and spotted two Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, sheltering in a crevice at about 10 metres depth. They seemed to have a much bluer coloration than those seen off Chesil Beach and, interestingly, were much the same colour as trigger fish I have seen on Bawden Rocks in Cornwall.

  • Triggerfish off Dorset

  • More Triggerfish Reports

    23 September 2006
    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered washed up on Castletown beach, near Thurso, on the extreme northerly tip of mainland Scotland. These southern fish a now regularly seen in the English Channel but are unusual so far north and was not immediately recognised by the local people.

    Report by George Shearer from the Caithness Forum

    8 December 2006
    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered washed up dead with the strandline debris on the beach of Chesil Cove, Dorset.

    18-19 December 2006

    A scour of the strandline between Sennen and Gwenver on the west coast of Cornwall near Land's End discovered about fifty Violet Sea Snails, Janthina, seven dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus. and one Gulfweed Crab, Planes minutus, on a polystyrene float covered with Goose Barnacles, and two Skate egg cases.

    Photographs by Paul Semmens
    Report by Paul Elliott and Paul Semmens on the Cornish Mailing List

    26 December 2006
    Three dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were discovered on Perranporth beach, south Cornwall.

    Report by Sue Hocking via Stella Turk MBE on the Cornish Mailing List

    31 December 2006
    A dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered on Rottingdean beach east of Brighton amongst dozens of dead Starfish, Asteria rubens

    Report by Bernd Eggen
    6 January 2007
    Two freshly dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered on to Ynyslas Beach near Aberystwyth, Wales with Goose Barnacles and By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella. 

    Report and Photograph by 
    Chris Bainger (Shrewsbury)
    Grey Triggerfish (Photograph by Chris Bainger)
    Triggerfish (Photograph by Amanda Bertuchi)
    10 January 2007
    A dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was found on Constantine Bay beach, north Cornwall. (SW 858 748)
    Report & Photograph by 
    Amanda Bertuchi

    10 January 2007
    I found a dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, after the tide had just turned the way down to Liniclate beach on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, western Scotland. Triggerfish are not so often found this far north. 

    Report by Calum Campbell
    12 January 2007
    I found a fresh dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on Porthtowan beach in Cornwall. It was about  30 cm long.

    14 January 2007
    I found another one twice the size of the one in the photograph.

    Reports and Photograph by Rowland Herman

    13 January 2007
    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was found dead at Splash Point, Seaford, East
    Sussex. It was about 30 cm long with its dorsal and pectoral fins rotted away, leaving the two dorsal fin spines but otherwise intact. Seaford Bay faces south west: there has been an almost continuous period of high winds and heavy seas since before Christmas 2006.

    Report by Peter Martin

    14 January 2007
    Two Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were washed ashore dead on Croyde Beach, North Devon.

    Report by Jon Turner

    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was washed on the beach at Aberdyfi (=Aberdovey) in north-west Wales. It was dead with its eyes missing but otherwise intact and was estimated to weigh about 500 grams.

    Report by John Mason

    28 January 2007

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Janey Young)
    I spotted a dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the strandline between Clymping and Littlehampton West Beach, West Sussex.  It looked like it had been dead for quite a long time. 
    Report and Photograph by Janey Young

    22 July 2007
    My young daughter spotted a young Herring Gull pecking a dead fish at the waters edge in Epple Bay, north Kent, at low tide. It was a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus. I have never seen one before and, browsing through your web page it looks as though no-one else has seen one this far east before.  It's been rough here over the past few days, but offshore, so I'd be surprised if it was forced aground.  It is in the fridge now, waiting for the local coastal project chappy to come along and positively ID it.  I've taken pics, but they're on film so not ready for a while.  I've dropped a trammel down to see if there are any more or if this is a one off.  Topography is sand/mud/chalk with the chalk being smothered in Mussels and Portuguese Oysters.  I'll send you a scan of the prints when they're done and let you know if I catch any.  What are they like to eat?  This one's past it: the slightly high smell suggests dead about 1 to 2 days.

     Report by Jeremy Scarlett

    3 August 2007
    We found a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, washed up on Llangennith Beach near Gower, Swansea, south Wales. It measured approx. 8 inches long, with its teeth and spines still intact.

    Report by Jayne Faulkner

    5 August 2007
    I am not sure if this was a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus,  but we believe so. We caught it in the estuary if the River Yealm, Devon, on Sunday. My 21 year old daughter Charlotte caught it messing around with a mackerel feather line, We let it go alive. 

    7 August 2007 
    I netted a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the Solway Firth, Scotland. It was an unusual catch that I identified using your web page. 

    Report by Austen Davies

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Lesley Ireland)

    We have just returned from our family holiday on the Isle of Mull, on the west Coast of Scotland. Whilst out walking on the stony beach down from Kilninian Schoolhouse (north/west coast of Mull), I nearly stood upon a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, which had obviously been washed up on the shore. Not knowing much about fish, I thought it looked like a piranha!!! (silly me!). We went out on a fishing trip two days later and I asked the skipper if he knew what kind of fish it was. He immediately said it looked like a Triggerfish, said he'd never seen one but had heard of divers spotting one at a wreck off the coast of Mull.

    Report and Photograph by Lesley Ireland

    9 August 2007
    I found a partially dried up Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on Waterville Beach (County Kerry, Ireland) in the afternoon. It measured 26 cm in length. 

    Report by Rosemary Hill

    Photograph by Adrian ExtonWe found the Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, pictured on the beach at Gott Bay, Isle of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, whilst on holiday.  We'd never seen one before but after a recent trip to a library we identified it and further online research brought us to your website.  Interesting that the pictures on your site of those found on 17 August 2007 and 28 January 2007 show the same hole on the side of the fish that ours had.  Perhaps this is in the stomach region and would decay first after the fish has died.  Terrific teeth!

    Report & Photograph by Adrian Exton

    Triggerfish (Photograph by A Paul Bell)12 August 2007
    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was found dead on the beach at Aberdaron, Gwynedd. It measured about 25 centimetres. 

    Report by A.Paul Bell

    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was caught on rod and line just off of the otter mouth on the eastern end of Budleigh Salterton, Devon, on a live sand eel at slack water. It was approx. 30 cm long and estimated to weigh 1 kg. 

    Report by Roger Hart

    17 August 2007

    Photograph by Rod Styles

    My daughter, Ellie Styles, found this Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, washed up on Big Strand Beach, Isle of Islay, Inner Hebrides.

    23 August 2007
    We caught 11 Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, angling just 500 metres off Hengistbury, Dorset. We also lost several on the way up. Quite often as we reeled in a fish another would follow it right to the surface. They were all returned alive.
    Triggerfish caught by Tom Bagnall Triggerfish caught by Tom Bagnall

    Report by Tom Bagnall
    Photographs by Jamie Lazar
    26 August 2007

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Chris Plummer)

    A Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was found washed up on shore in Dunree, North Donegal, Ireland.  The fish was about 30 cm in length.  A surfer friend of mine identified it for me from the picture.  I thought it was a very interesting find as I had never seen one before! I have friends who live in the area where it was found.  None of them have ever seen any washed up on shore or caught any in that area while fishing. 

    Report by Chris Plummer

    27 August 2007
    I saw three Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, while diving the Palace Pier at Brighton, Sussex.  They were patrolling an area to the west of the main body of the pier, some 200 metres out to sea, in 9 metres at high tide.  I was very excited…until I found your website and realized that they are not so much an oddity as a fixture in British waters!

    Report by Tom Glandfield
    Marine Life of Sussex

    30 August 2007

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Richard Dean)

    While scuba diving, doing a Seasearch Survey we spotted five Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus. The location was Well Rock, Bigbury Bay, South Devon.

    Report by Richard Dean

    1-2 September 2007
    A shoal of around 50 Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were sighted by Castlereagh Sub Aqua Club in the harbour area of Malinbeg, County Donegal, Ireland on the weekend. Two local anglers said that these fish had been seen in the harbour for the last two or three years. 

    2 September 2007
    On a demonstration day on the beach at Rest Bay in Porthcawl, south Wales, I noticed a large blob in the shallow water of the Bristol Channel. When I went to investigate I noticed it was a dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, which looked very clean and fresh with no damage to its body. It was about 30 cm in length. 

    Report by Carl
    6 September 2007
    I found a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus,  floating dead close to the shore at Portstewart, Co Derry, Northern Ireland. The fish measured 35 cm from snout to fork of tail. It was fresh with no signs of injury. I am aware that this species has been expanding northwards, but am not sure of its current status in this area. 
    For the record, a little belatedly, I know that a Triggerfish was caught in the same location in 1976. It was caught in the salmon net and brought to the fishing tackle shop (where I was working) for identification. It made the local newspaper. 
    Report by John Hamilton

    7 September 2007
    Whilst diving approximately a mile south west of West Bay, Dorset in 10 - 12 metres of water, with Seahorse Dive Club (Wiltshire), we had three separate sightings of Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus,  including a group of six of varying sizes. 

     Report by Mark Shipway

    9 September 2007

      Triggerfish (Photograph by Ben Sharman)

    Just thought you might like to see the picture of the Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus,  that my mate caught from West Beach, Selsey, West Sussex this morning at high tide. It was in immaculate condition, and swam away very strongly when returned. I have never heard of Triggerfish being caught from the beach here, and wondered if it is unusual? Very glad your website manage to prove my identification was correct! You wouldn't want to see much more of his face, and anyway, I was really excited by the fish! 

    Report and Photograph by Ben Sharman

    Grey Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, - Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry.

    On holiday  I was float fishing from the rocks which terminate the northern end of the fine, sandy beach between Trabeag and Bulls Head, about 5 miles east of Dingle Harbour, County Cork, Ireland.
    I was hoping to catch a bass or flounder, for which the beach is a well-known angling location. Soon after casting into 2 - 3 metres of clear water (over a stretch of sandy bottom between rocks rising from the sand) just before high water (about 4 pm) I was shocked to see about 10 (to me) strange fish, all similar in size and of the order of 25 to 35 cm long, 15 to 20 cm deep, darting towards all the components of my fishing tackle, float, sinker, and hook baited with mussel. One of them managed to nibble the mussel off my hook without getting the hook into it's mouth, and when I reeled in, the whole group pursued. First it was my bright red plastic float, which they appeared to be trying to eat voraciously, making it bounce about and the  water boil! Having never experienced such piscine behaviour I was drawn to wonder if they were attacking, attempting to eat, or simply playing with my float. Once the float was out of the water they darted towards the sinker and the shiny hook.
    My fishing skills and fish identification are limited - I usually try to catch only one reasonably sized pollack for the grill, and just enjoy the view! - and it being close to high water I first likened these creatures to wrasse, whose feeding time (at and after high water) always indicates to me that it's got too late to catch pollack, and whose "lippy" mouths are smallish so that they often nibble my lugworm without taking the hook. Other names came to mind - were they parrot fish, sun fish, bream? (Pictures of all of which I had vague memories of.) It became impossible to fish for anything else! Soon after each re-baiting and casting in, the same (or another!) crowd of these comedians would dominate my fishing experience, and ultimately one of them took my baited hook into its mouth, almost at the surface, within 20 cm of the rock at my feet! Rather than attempt to spit it out or flee, this animal appeared still determined to have its way with my hook. Keeping my line under tension, so that the "hooked" fish was half out of the water and actually lying on the rock, I watched as four or five of the others splashed and thrashing around it, as if trying to "share" the bait, rescue, or "play" with their companion. As I started to haul the fish from the water (and it wasn't wriggling as if in fleeing terror, just hanging onto the bait!), my hook came free and clear of the water, and with nothing more to interest them, the group swam off, and seemed to disperse.
    This whole scenario was repeated several times, the same or a different "tribe" gathering a minute or two after I cast in, and I began to wonder if the very bold "hooked" fish was simply clamping its teeth (and not its cartilage or flesh) around my hook and bait, only releasing it when it was finally concerned at being almost completely out of the water. (The hook was a large one I use for "big-mouthed" pollack, and I could see that the "pretty" lips of these fish were hardly wide enough to accommodate it all.)
    At some stage the supposed behaviour of piranha fish came to mind, and I began to wonder if I would be safe in the water with these fearless and apparently voracious creatures there! The next day I visited the (good quality) aquarium in Dingle, and my mystery was solved when I saw a Grey Triggerfish in one of the tanks. Identical!

    Report by Brian Lever
    23 September 2007
    I caught a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, in a top entry lobster pot in 30 ft of water, sandy bottom next to large rock. west coast of Anglesey, North Wales.
    Report by Richard Boyce

    21-23 September 2007
    The Guernsey angling competition called the Specimen Fish Hunt recorded 37 Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, compared to nil in 2006. This is the largest number of Triggerfish ever submitted to the competition. On the north shore of Guernsey anglers are reporting a large shoal of them. As anglers reel in their bait Triggerfish were following the bait to the shore. 
    Anglers may have caught more than 37 Triggerfish but they will only keep the largest to submit for weighing in the competition. Anglers who have already caught Triggerfish will concentrate on fishing for other species to increase the variety of fish they enter in the competition.

    25 September 2007
    Also Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the beach of Baleshare, Isle of North Uist, Western Hebrides, Scotland. Three in total this week. I have never seen them before on Baleshare.

    September 2007
    Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were reported on several occasion fighting each other on wrecks in Lyme Bay. The Triggerfish were seen with lumps bitten out of each other. 

    Report by Paul Martin

    6 October 2007
    I am a scuba dive instructor and have observed an adult pair of Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on a reef in Donegal Bay (N.W. Ireland). They are always found in the exact same spot every time we dive (a rocky overhang on the side of a reef). They are in about 5 metres of water and have been there for at least 2 months. We watched them for about 10 mins today and they were extremely tame in the presence of a group of 8 divers.

    7 October 2007
    On a shore dive off Seaford, East Sussex, about 300 metres out over chalk with shallow gullies and occasional chalk boulders with Sabellaria, a 'sleeping' Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, eventually swam off.

    > October 2007
    We have had one report of a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on an Ayrshire beach and also caught in lobster pots this year! They seem to be becoming more common in Scotland.

    Report by Pete Minting (Biologist, Ayrshire Rivers Trust)

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Rick Curran)25 October 2007
    A dried out Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was discovered on the beach at Machrihanish on the west Coast of Scotland. 

    16 November 2007
    I found a dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on Balnakeil Beach by Durness (north coast of
    Scotland) last week, washed up following recent gales. It came in with thousands of little jellyfish

    Report from Donald Mitchell

    10 December 2007
    I found washed up but still alive what I believe to be a Grey Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, approx. 14 inches in length washed up in strong surf at east side of beach at Porthtowan, Cornwall at about 11:45 am.

    Report by John Davies

    Triggerfish (Photograph by Clive Heaton)

    We found at least 10 Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, washed up on the beach at Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes, Cornwall. Unfortunately they were all dead, and had been washed up by gales the previous evening.

    Report and Photograph by Clive Heaton

    12 December 2007
    I saw a single dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on the strandline in the last month on three occasions, the first on the sand at Croyde, north Devon, at 12.50 pm.  The as a metre swell and a calm sea state.  Its eyes were missing but the fish was otherwise undamaged. The other occasions were on subsequent dates on Saunton Beach and at Crow Point seaward side. 

    Report by Paula Ferris
    Triggerfish, Photograph by Chris Wilson (Oughterard) 17 December 2007
    I found two Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, at separate beaches south of Clifden, County Galway 

    Report and Photograph by 
    Chris Wilson (Oughterard, County Galway)

    23 December 2007
    Two Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, were found washed up on Sennen Beach, Cornwall. 

    Report by Mike

    24 December 2007
    A rather exotic-looking fish we found on a Hebridean beach over Christmas, was a Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, corpse in the attached photo was found by my sister on the beach at Saligo Bay on the north-west coast of the Isle of Islay. I initially thought it looked exactly like a some sort of triggerfish or parrotfish, but had no idea that they were a species found off the shores of Great Britain or Scotland, despite having studied marine biology at university in Scotland! It was just over 30 cm long at a guess. 

    Report by Jonathan Malim

    31 December 2007
    Whilst walking across Perranporth beach, Cornwall,  I spotted four dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, ranging in size from 10 inches up to about 14 for the largest.

    Report by I Binny

    Triggerfish Reports 2008 et seq.

Information wanted: Please send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to 
Shorewatch Project 

All messages will receive a reply.

Reports of Triggerfish washed up on the shores of Cornwall (not included above) could be found on the Cornish Beachcombing Report pages:

Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 1999
Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 2000
Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 2001
Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 2002
Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 2003
Cornish Marine Wildlife 2004 (Ray Dennis Records)
Cornish Marine Wildlife 2005 (Ray Dennis Records)
Cornish Marine Life Records 2006 (Ray Dennis Records)
Cornish Marine Life Records 2007 (Ray Dennis Records)
Cornish Marine Life Records 2008 (Ray Dennis Records)
Shorewatch Project
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