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Bluefish

   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 marine world.

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.

"Cocktail Blues" 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 "bluefish believers".

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 riggers. 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 there. 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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