Bluefish are a
migratory fish that live in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova
Scotia to Florida. Bluefish get their name from the bright bluish
tint found on the sides of their body. Bluefish migrate north
as the ocean water temperature increases and are abundant off
New York shores from May through November. High quality
locally harvested bluefish are widely available in New York
markets during the summer and fall, and bluefish harvested in
the southern Atlantic states is available in New York markets
during the colder months of the year.
Bluefish are a familiar and
popular favorite of saltwater anglers all along the Atlantic
coast. In fact, more bluefish are generally harvested by
recreational anglers each year than are harvested by
commercial fishermen. Bluefish are voracious feeders that
travel in large groups or schools. The feeding frenzy of a
school of bluefish is a phenomenon that has no parallel in the
Juvenile or young bluefish
that are only 4-6 months old are commonly called
"snappers". Snappers often provide a great shoreside
fishing experience for kids in the late summer months.
Snappers are great for pan frying. These young bluefish have
milder tasting and lighter colored fillets than their older
and larger relatives.
are intermediate size bluefish, generally 2 to 3 years old,
weighing up to 3 pounds and averaging 18 to 21 inches long.
'Cocktail Blues are the perfect combination of size and
weight. Fillets are a good size for an adult meal and have a
milder and sweeter taste than larger bluefish which have a
darker color and stronger flavor. Cocktail Blues that are
grilled, broiled or baked with mild seasonings or a marinade
will turn those fish eaters whose only prior experience with
bluefish has been with an 8 to 10 pounder into new
Larger bluefish from 6 to 10
pounds are a good size for baking whole with a pungent herb
stuffing. Larger fillets are also great for baking and
broiling in spicy tomato and herb based sauces. Anglers should
be aware that large bluefish, have been shown to accumulate
higher levels of chemical contaminants like PCBs. Current New
York State Department of Health Sportfish consumption
advisories recommend that bluefish consumption be limited to
one meal (one-half pound) per week. Studies have shown that
contaminants are stored in the fatty portions of the fish and
levels can be reduced by removing the skin and the darker
fatty layer under the skin and the strip of darker meat that
runs along the center of the fillet.
Because of its higher fat
content, bluefish should be handled with care to maintain
quality. Bluefish should be thoroughly iced as soon as
possible after they are caught and kept cold until they are
eaten. Consumers who purchase bluefish during the warm summer
months should avoid delays in getting their purchase home or
ask their retailer to provide some extra ice. Bluefish should
be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator or covered
with ice in the refrigerator until they are prepared.
Bluefish are versatile and
can be prepared in a variety of ways including pan frying,
baking, broiling, and grilling. Because of their higher fat
content additional oil or fat is generally not needed. Most
recipes contain neutralizing acids in the form of citrus
fruits such as lemon or lime, vegetables like tomatoes or
onions, and pungent herbs like rosemary and thyme.
Bluefish are everywhere on Long Island, along the beaches ,
open ocean, bays and tidal rivers. Many party boats fish for
them exclusively and will run trips during the day and night.
They can run as small as 1-2 lb. (Cocktails) or close to 20
lb. They are the most prolific fish in the area and for that
reason are the most popular species to fish for. If you want
to catch lots of fish Blues provide the best opportunity.
Blues are noted for their great fight, and fierce appetites.
When a blitz occurs they will hit almost anything. Make sure
to use a heavy mono or wire leader . These fish have sharp
teeth that will make short order of 10 - 15 lb mono or your
hand. Watch yourself when trying to get the hook out. It's
best to use pliers.
Time of Year:
Blues usually arrive in late spring and will stay around well
into October. Most of the larger fish are caught in the fall.
How to catch:
Diving birds are a sure sign there are Bluefish in the area.
Cast a diamond jig or plug into a pack of working birds and
your almost sure to get a Bluefish.
Chumming from an anchored boat is the most popular way to fish
for Blues. Pay out Bunker chum to attract fish while dropping
back pieces of cut bunker on your hook.
Trolling tubes, jigs , bunker spoons, plugs or umbrella rigs
work great. This method is highly effective for locating fish.
Some sharpies will troll to locate the fish and then anchor or
drift in the area for with bait. In order to keep your
trolling lures down at the right depth it is usually necessary
to troll with heavy drail sinkers or wire line. Wire line
trolling is the most effective. Some sharpies also use down
Jigging for blues works well when there is a large body of
fish concentrated in an area . Diamond jigs tipped with
surgical tubes are dropped to the bottom and reeled up
quickly. They can sometimes be bounced off the bottom as well.
Tips: Use fresh rather then frozen if you can get it.
When chumming be sure not to be too generous or skimpy with
the chum . It's a good idea release chum at 2 to 3 minute
intervals to keep a consistent chum slick and hold fish. Too
much chum and the fish will hang back for the easy meal and
not bother to move up into the slick for your baits. Too
little chum and your not going to hold or attract fish.
Trolling speed is critical for bluefish. Between 2.5 and 3
knots is good. When trolling bunker spoons slow it down until
you see your pole pulsing in an erratic side to side and
bobbing motion. When trolling other lures like tubes, jigs, and
umbrella rigs try and stay close to the bottom without hanging
up. Pay line out until you feel contact with the bottom and
then reel in just enough to keep your lure from hanging
bottom. If you have a fish finder and can determine a
consistent depth where the fish are holding try and keep the
lures at that depth. A usual rule of thumb for wire line is 10
feet of line usually equates to 1 foot of depth. As an example
you would let out 90 feet of wire line if you wanted your
lures to run at 9 feet. Every once and a while take the boat
our of gear and let the lures free fall then engage the engine
again,. This change in motion is often times enough to entice
a fish to strike.
Always try and keep the boat in gear when fighting a fish.
This allows you to keep constant pressure on the fish and
results in less thrown hooks .
When party boat fishing try to stay on the side where the chum
is drifting. The trick is to use just enough weight to keep
your hooked bait floating along with the chum/chunks. Manually
pay out line until you feel a hit , if you run out of line or
hit bottom. Then reel up and do it again . Be careful to pay
attention to how much line is payed out when you catch a fish
so you can let the same amount of line out the next time.
These fish will usually suspend at a certain depth and stay
When fishing from shore with bait it's best to use a float
rig. It keeps the bait off the bottom and away from crabs. You
can purchase one from almost any tackle store.
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