Early close to gray triggerfish season makes life tough for Gulf of Mexico fishermen



The gray triggerfish season is closing May 1 for recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.

Who’d ever thunk it?

Not too many years ago, gray triggerfish were as plentiful as the hairs on your head. OK, for most of you, the hairs on your head. Like some of you I’ve lost a few up top, and what’s left is getting grayer every day.

Gray triggerfish are a delicacy from the Gulf. Ever ate one? Yeah, they’re tough to clean, but the flaky white fillets are wonderful table fare, easy to prepare – sea salt; a touch of cayenne; sautéed for a couple of minutes in butter, shallots and a pinch of garlic; then finished off for two minutes under the broiler.

Guess there’s an explanation, maybe two, for this closure. Maybe the lower numbers are a product of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Maybe the eggs couldn’t hatch. But that’s pure speculation.

Maybe it’s because all the red snapper we’re seeing are eating the young ones and running off the adults from the oil and gas platforms where we used to find them. That’s a more plausible explanation for me.

Whatever it is, it’s another fish off the board for the remainder of 2014.

Now, in the prime fishing months of June and July, we can’t have gray triggerfish, nor amberjack, and the red snapper season in federal waters is looking iffy.

Not that everyone venturing from ports along our coast sought triggerfish to add bragging rights to their catch, but with ever-shortened red snapper season, it was something to take home, and a good something at that.

When we talked about all the long faces among Louisiana’s offshore fishermen last week, it didn’t include this recent closure, but what I wish would have been factored in was that there are fewer and fewer faces.

Talk to fishermen three or four times a week, and it’s clear more and more are becoming increasingly frustrated with the red snapper situation. Why, they wonder aloud, are they spending so much time in an endeavor that throws so many roadblocks in their paths in what should be a pleasurable, recreational adventure?

It’s more than the snapper: It’s the constantly changing regulations and the fact that they’ve had to become fisheries biologists just to know whether the species they’re bringing aboard is legal or illegal to keep in an ice chest.

“Heck,” an old friend said, “if I want my recreational time to be this trying, I’d take up golf.”

I told him that that’s exactly what the “other side” wants him to do, that there are folks in our country who want him to give up fishing, that some among those groups are going to great lengths to take as many recreational fishermen off the water as they can.

I told him that these groups have aligned with groups not usually associated with the lunatic fringe in order to present a front that veils their obvious intention to put sportfishing as a pastime in the past time.

I told him that his newly found attitude makes those folks the winners.

“I’m still going to go, but with the cost of fuel and all the regulations, it’s tougher and tougher for us to make it fun like it used to be,” he said.

I told him that still makes them winners.

“They won’t get rid of all of us. There are too many of us to ignore,” he said with a note of agitation in his voice.

I told him that sure is true, but there are fewer of you this year than last year and fewer than the year before. That tells this “other side” that if they persist long enough, there just might be the day when there are so few recreational fishermen that they can be ignored.


Joe Macaluso has covered the outdoors in South Louisiana for more than 40 years and has served as the outdoors editor for The Advocate in Baton Rouge since the early 1990s. He is a long-time member of the Louisiana Outdoor Writer’s Association and is a past recipient of the association’s Arthur Van Pelt Award for lifetime achievement in conservation. He has also been honored for his coverage of college football and baseball before dedicating his career almost entirely to covering the outdoors.

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  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    […] some food for thought on the frustrating state of sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico right now:…n/frustration/ As the author says, fishermen down there are wondering why they spending so much time in an […]

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