When he headed out New River Inlet before daylight on July 3, Ben Peterson was just looking forward to a good day of fishing. A state-record fish wasn't on his mind.

Several hours later, however, he decided it would be prudent to weigh one of the queen triggerfish in the day's catch. The hand scales never quite settled on the rocking boat, but they were showing it at more than 10 pounds, and it was heavy enough to take it by an official weigh station.

Hello state record.

Peterson said he and some friends took advantage of the glassy, small seas and light winds that morning and headed offshore in his KenCraft Challenger 250. Their original plan was to troll in the morning and then bottom-fish some in the afternoon before heading in. 


Peterson said they found a great-looking weed line and trolled along it out to almost 400 feet. However, other than a few dolphin, the action wasn't what they had hoped, so they decided to head inshore a little and go to "Plan B" and see if the bottomfish were biting any better. 

"About 11 a.m., we got anchored up on a spot where we had been catching fish recently, and it was immediately obvious they were still there," Peterson said. "We had a steady bite of porgy, queen and grey triggers, assorted grouper, sand tilefish, beeliners and grunts all day. 

"Our main target was grouper, so we were using large hooks with large mullet and squid strips," Peterson said. "When this largest queen trigger hit, I thought for sure I had a nice grouper on until I felt its tail thumping rapidly, then I thought it might be a giant trigger." 

Peterson said they were fishing in 140 feet of water, and the fight lasted about 10 minutes. He said the big trigger would sometimes use its wide body to lay sideways and really make it difficult to move, and several times it made powerful surges he couldn't stop and went straight back to the bottom.   

Peterson and friends caught several citation-size triggerfish, but he said this one made them all look small. Even though he could feel its tail pumping and didn't think it was a grouper, one of the friends was standing by with a gaff – just in case. 

Someone on board knew the state record for queen triggerfish was in the 10-pound range, and the hand scales had this one pushing 11. They decided it would be worth the trip to East Coast Sports in Surf City to see what it would weigh officially. If the hand held scales were anywhere close to correct, it could be a state record. 

The scales at East Coast Sports confirmed what Peterson and friends had thought. This fish weighed 10 pounds, 11 ounces. It was 23.5 inches long (fork length) and had a 22-inch girth. The paperwork was filled out, and a photo was submitted to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. It didn't take too long to be approved by the biologists and sent to the committee that oversees state records. Peterson's new record was approved and announced on July 20.  

Peterson was fishing a Shimano Saragosa 18000 reel and a Shimano Trevala rod. The big spinning reel was spooled with 65-pound Power Pro braid, and Peterson said he used all the drag the outfit, or he, could stand.  

The previous state record for queen triggerfish was 10 pounds, 5 ounces.  It was caught by William Cox off Wrightsville Beach in 2011.