Being a species hunter I’m constantly on the look out for opportunities to add to my all time UK and Ireland total. One of the fish that’s eluded me over the years is a trigger fish. I’ve caught them in Gibraltar, Gambia, Florida and Mexico, but never in my home waters.
On a recent trip to Waterville in Ireland I was scheduled to fish for wrasse and pollack with long time colleague Mike Hennessey of the South West Regional Fisheries Board. On the way to the mark we popped in to see local tackle shop owner Kevin Brain. The chat got around to trigger fish and Kevin said that although so far they had been few and far between, one or two had been caught.
Kevin guides anglers and was due to take two lads out that afternoon and he said if he saw any triggers he’d give us a call and we’d shoot over to try and catch one.
On our rock mark we started catching ballan wrasse to 3lbs on lug baits, then switched to pollack using frozen sandeel baits spun through the weed which produced fish to just under 4lbs.
I was taking a photo of Mike with a good pollack when his phone rang. It was Kevin! “Get yourselves over here, we’ve just caught a trigger!”
I’ve never packed up my gear so quick and we both scrambled across the rocks at break neck speed trying to get to Kevin’s mark before the triggers disappeared. It was just a few minutes drive in the car but felt like an eternity!
When we got there Kevin said the triggers hadn’t been around for about 20-minutes, and my heart sank!
I put on a two-hook rig and lobbed two small mackerel strips out in to the deeper water just 30-yards out. Almost immediately I got a bite. Striking in to the fish this was no trigger as it was heavy and rolled. It was a conger eel about 6 or 7lbs that broke my top hook snood off and covered both me and my trace in thick slime.
As I was unhooking and releasing the conger, Mike shouted that the triggers were back. I quickly baited up my last remaining hook with a strip of mackerel and as I looked out off the rock in to water maybe 20-feet deep I could see the triggers in good numbers swimming in towards the rock face I was standing on.
I dropped my bait down and not only did I feel the bite, but actually saw the trigger fish take my bait. It fought hard against a powerful bass rod, but I duly landed my very first trigger fish from my home waters. It was my 98th species in total from the UK and Ireland!
I decided to get more sport from the triggers and changed to a light mullet rod armed with a Penn Sargus 4000 spinning reel and 15lb braid line. I used a light float and suspended the mackerel strip up off the seabed. Such was the clarity of the water that I didn’t really need the float and could see the triggers take my bait as it dropped down through the water column.
On this tackle they fought much harder, diving for the seabed and taking line, twisting and turning in the current, and right on the surface splashing and diving down again. My best fish weighed 2lbs 3ozs and I had over a dozen in a hectic session, but Mike got a near specimen trigger of 3lbs 1oz.
The interesting thing was that when the triggers disappeared they only went out in to deeper water just out of sight. To bring them back in again you needed to crush up a whole or half section of mackerel and throw it out in to the water. The splash of the mackerel, and obviously the smell as bits broke off and the mackerel sank downwards, drew the triggers back in to feed.
It was opportunist fishing at its best and proves the advantage of having a variety of tackle with you to target whatever fish present them selves. I’m also indebted to Kevin Brain for his timely phone call!