Angler pulls “trigger” on would-be record!

Brian Carlos of Luling with his 13.80 triggerfish caught on a piece of cut squid.
Brian Carlos of Luling with his 13.80 triggerfish caught on a piece of cut squid.

Timing is everything, so they say. Had Brian Carlos dropped his bait to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in 480 feet of water in just the right spot a little bit earlier last Thursday morning, he would now be on the way to being the proud owner of the Louisiana state record for triggerfish.

But a giant red snapper and a full night of fishing Wednesday night got in his way.

Carlos still landed a monster 13.80 pound triggerfish that was a catch of a lifetime that would have smashed the existing state record for that species. But it won’t be a record. The record book issue comes from the fact that Carlos caught the fish using an electric reel and fish caught on electric reels can not be entered into the state’s records, kept by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association since 1940.

That’s where the giant red snapper comes in.

“We had a great overnight fishing trip with some friends and we went offshore out of Cocodrie,” Carlos said. “We caught some blackfin and yellow fins, then a couple of swordfish. We caught grouper and snapper, too. In fact, I had just spent an hour cranking in a big Warsaw grouper and then a huge red snapper. We had fished most of the night and handcranking them had worn me out. I told the other guys to go have some fun and I just rested a minute and grabbed up the rig with the electric reel. I was too tired to do anything else.”

The fish of a lifetime

That’s when he dropped his hook baited with a cut piece of squid to the bottom. As soon as it hit the bottom, the big triggerfish hit his bait. It was still quite a battle and he had his hands full hand cranking the fish in the last 20 feet or so from a rig in the Green Canyon area.

“At first, I thought this was a grouper too when he came to the surface, but it was obvious when we got him in the boat that it wasn’t,” Carlos said. “I’ve never caught a triggerfish before so I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought they were a lot smaller.”

The group took a few minutes to make sure they properly identified the fish and ensured it met legal requirements before putting it in the cooler. Later when they reached shore, they took their fish to an experienced fisherman who always cleans their catches for them. He told them in no uncertain terms that he had never seen a triggerfish that big and he had seen thousands of them. He said they should weigh it and Carlos should get it mounted. So they headed to some certified scales, weighed it and Carlos decided to keep it for mounting. The standing record for triggerfish is 12.40 pounds, held by Chad Bonvillain caught in May of 2015 in the Ship Shoal area.

“I’m tickled to death about it,” he said. “I wish it would have been a record, but I understand. Carlos is 37 years old and has been fishing for about 10 years. He is also an air traffic controller who lives in Luling. He caught the fish on a Banax electrical reel and a Deep Drop Rod from Frigate Sales.

Record size fish are out there

Brian Carlos’ huge triggerfish tipped the scales at 13.80 pounds.
Brian Carlos’ huge triggerfish tipped the scales at 13.80 pounds.

The big catch came on the boat, “Can’t Get Right” captained by Kristopher Dagenhardt. And although the fish didn’t “get right” for the record books, Carlos said he is just glad that it lets fishermen know there are always bigger fish out there to be caught. Recent efforts to better manage triggerfish populations by both sport and recreational fishermen will probably continue to help other anglers pull the trigger on bigger ones as well.

And this fish will always be an important entry into Brian’s personal record book for sure.

Louisiana’s Top 10 Gray Triggerfish *

Rank     Weight    Angler                          Caught                         Date

1.             12.40         Chad Bonvillain                 Ship Shoal                   May 2015
2.             11.35          Jean Savoie                 Green Canyon Blk 19         Aug 2007
3.             9.35            Scotty Broussard         Vermillion Blk 412         May 2009
4.             9.00         Brad Fields                         Mississippi Canyon         June 2008
5.             8.50         Sam Ishee                         West Delta Blks                 April 2011
6.             8.35         Edward Frekey                 Green Canyon Blk 19         Aug 2007
7.             8.31         Matthew Touchette         SMI Blk 18                         May 2016
8.             7.88         Jessica Lynn Scallan         West Delta Blk 117         June 2007
9.             7.13         Stan Ishee                         West Delta Blk                 April 2011
10.           6.50         Colten Erwin                 Mississippi Canyon                 July 2007

* The Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association has only been keeping record for this species since 2005.                                  

About Kinny Haddox 597 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.