This past Sunday I went fishing in Punta Cana together with my buddy, Pico, whom I often go fishing with. Pico has been fishing practically his whole life and works as the captain on The Marlin Chaser. We usually go in-shore fishing in a very small boat that we share and usually catch a lot of fish when we sail along the coast from the marina at Puntacana Resort & Club, past Tortuga Bay Hotel, La Cana golf clubhouse and all the way up to Playa Blanca beach club and the Club Med resort.
We were out the whole day and caught a lot of different fish (including Black & Queen Triggerfish, Mangrove Snappers, Jacks and Groupers) that Pico took home to his family and also to sell (he has a small fish & seafood store out of his house). One of the fish that we caught, which I have never caught before, was a big, beautiful Queen Triggerfish (QT).
The Queen Triggerfish – General Description:
After doing some research on this particular fish, I found out that there are actually about 40 types of Triggerfish that all live in the tropical and subtropical oceans around the world, including the Caribbean. The QT is oval shaped with a quite compact body, a large head with small eyes. It has beautiful colors of blue, purple, turquoise, and green with a yellow throat and blue lines on its fins and head. As soon as we got it out of the water, though, it lost some of its bold colors and became more dark. The QT can also change its colors as a defense mechanism or depending on its mood, e.g. if it gets stressed.
Mating and Spawning:
The QT is not a fish that you want to mess too much with or get “up close and personal with”, especially during its reproductive (spawning) season, which peaks in the fall around September and again in the winter around January. The QT has teeth and has been known to bite e.g. scuba divers or snorkelers coming too close to its territory and eggs.
The male QT makes its territory, a large sand bowl on the ocean floor approx. 10 meters / 33 ft. in diameter, and starts attracting a harem of female QTs to mate with. Once the eggs are laid in this bowl, both the male and females protect and defend them from intruders and predators, which may include other fish or humans. The QT’s small but apparently very strong jaw and mouth has a row with 4 teeth on each side and the upper mouth also has 6 additional Pharyngeal teeth, with with it can produce a grunting or clicking sound when grinding them together.
Outside of the mating and reproductive season, the QT is a fairly easy-going fish that moves about slowly during the daytime, poking around and blowing at sand, in search of food such as crustaceans, mollusks, sea urchins, starfish, crab and sometimes also small fish and algae. It typically lives on the bottom of the ocean (not more than about 3-30 meters / 9.8-98 feet deep) and around coral reefs.
What’s In a Name:
The QT gets its curious name from the fins and spines on its back, which it can “trigger” to raise and lock together, e.g. at night when it wedges into small, tight places between rocks to sleep. This is an excellent hiding place, which keeps it safe from other, predatory fish that roam at night for food. The particular locking mechanism of its dorsal fins and spines makes it tough for other fish to drag the QT out of its hiding/sleeping places in the rocks.
We caught a few of these QT. The biggest one was about 40 centimeters / 16 inches long and weighed roughly 3 kilos / 6.6 pounds, which is a typical size for this particular fish. The lifespan of the QT is anywhere between 7 and 13 years and it can become up to 60 centimeters / 24 inches long, although it is more common to find them at about half this size.
Eating the Queen Triggerfish:
As far as I have heard, the QT is supposed to be an excellent meal. I would assume, since this is a fish that eats other fish, etc., that some level of caution should be exercised when eating it since it might be somewhat toxic, although I was not able to find any information online about the mercury level in the QT.