Orangeside Triggerfish

Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres

The Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres, whose common Spanish name is cochito naranja, is a species in the Triggerfish or Balistidae Family, known collectively as cochitos in Mexico. There are only seven global members of the genus Balistes, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Orangeside Triggerfish have robust, compressed, and oblong bodies with a depth that is 48 – 52% of standard length. They are dark brown upper half that transitions to a light brown yellowish-orange on the head and lower sides of the body. They have a thick oblique yellow bar that runs from the rear corner of their mouth across the lower part of their head to just short of their pectoral fin base. The juveniles have the same body shape as the adults but are brown dorsally and a lighter brown ventrally and without the facial oblique line and yellow coloration. Their head has a tapered profile with disproportionately small beady eyes, a small mouth that opens at the front, and powerful jaws with 8 heavy human-like teeth on the upper and lower jaws. The anterior rays of their anal and second dorsal fins are of equal length; their caudal fin is straight; their dorsal fin has 3 spines, the first of which can be locked erect and the second being one-half the size of the first; and their pelvic fins are minute. They have thick leathery skin and the majority of their body is covered with denticles. They are also known as the Filescale Triggerfish because their skin is similar to a rasp: when rubbed in one direction it feels quite rough and in the other quite smooth.

The Orangeside Triggerfish are found in and around rocky coral reefs and close to boulders adjacent to sand at depths up to 154 feet of the water column; this depth limit was established by a fish that I caught. They reach a maximum length of 40 cm (16 inches).  They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Orangeside Triggerfish are found from Cedros Island southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, in the southern two thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala. They are very common in the greater Los Cabos area.
The Orangeside Triggerfish is an easy fish to identify and cannot be confused with any other species.
The Orangeside Triggerfish are viewed by local fishermen as the inshore pest of the greater Los Cabos area. They are abundant and can be caught easily in very shallow water with traditional bottom rigs and cut bait. On light tackle they can be an excellent foe. They can become a focus fish for charter pangueros to ensure that customers do not get skunked. They can also be caught off the beach with great regularity. They are viewed by locals as poor table fare and the vast majority are considered a “catch-and-release” for all but subsistence fishermen. They are sold on a limited basis in local markets in the greater Los Cabos area.

Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches). Note the atypical white spotting on the sides and the atypical strongly serrated first dorsal spine.

Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Length: 33 cm (13 inches).

Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres: Adult, juvenile and a rare “pugheaded” fish thought to be a genetic variation. Size: 33 cm (13 inches), 20 cm (8 inches) and 18 cm (7 inches) respectfully. All caught in the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur.Orangeside Triggerfish, Sufflamen verres, pugheaded. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches).