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Fishing for Blue Fish
Bluefish (Potatomus salatrix) is a tenacious saltwater fish that provides some of the best angling thrills on light tackle. They are mainly thought of as an Eastern United States fish, although they are found in most temperate waters throughout the world, except in the cooler waters of the northern Pacific.
Bluefish are schooling fish built for speed and power. They are a blue green shade along the top of the body near the dorsal fins, and have silvery sides and a whitish / silver underbelly. They have relatively large heads that feature powerful jaws and rows of very sharp teeth. Their tapered bodies end in deeply forked tails that allow them to be powerful swimmers and fighters.
The average fish weighs between 4 and 10 pounds, with any fish over 20 pounds being considered a real quality fish. The recognized IGFA record is 31 pounds, 12 ounce fish caught off the coast of North Carolina in 1972. Unconfirmed monster fish have reportedly been caught in the 40-pound range.
Population numbers of bluefish have been documented to follow cycles lasting about forty years. A recent disappearance occurred during the 1920s, and anglers are still enjoying a high for the fish which began in the 1970s. They are migratory fish, following schools of baitfish such as menhaden shad and mullet, heading north from Florida in spring, all the way to Maine by the end of the summer.
When fishing for blues, anglers should remember they are primarily schooling fish. Schools the size of football fields have been witnessed, with the fish creating a feeding frenzy of roiling water and leaping fish. Many anglers often troll for the fish, as this is one of the most consistent methods of catching bluefish. Once a fish is caught by trolling, anglers should stop the boat and throw out casts to try to locate the school. Putting a lure at the proper depth in areas where bluefish schools are hanging will usually result in large catches. Fish can often be caught on any type of fast-moving lure that resembles a baitfish, including metal spoons, jigs, and tube baits. Wooden baits are not popular because of the bluefish’s powerful teeth, which will quickly destroy wooden plugs.
Casting into a school of fish requires the use of moderately heavy tackle and wire leaders. It is important that black wire leaders and swivels are used, as the fish will often strike shiny leaders, weakening and in some cases severing them. Anglers casting into a frenzied school of bluefish can often catch a fish on every cast. Therefore, it is important to retie lures and leaders often, because they will undoubtedly become frayed. The best results are found by casting along the outer edges of the school, decreasing the chances of spooking any fish, and also preventing line breakages. Feeding bluefish have been known to even attack each other; it is not uncommon for a four-pounder on the line to be cut in half by a twenty pound blue.
Bluefish can also be caught from the surf at certain times of the year. Shiny spoons such as the Hopkins brand are consistent favorites for fishing in surf due to their visibility and enticing action.
Anglers that use live or cut bait, such as eels or fish, often catch blues from the surf or from piers simply by letting the bait sit and waiting for a strike. This method can be useful when there are no apparent schools of bluefish biting.
Flyfishing for blues has become more and more popular in recent years. Many of the same techniques and lures used for striped bass can be applied to bluefish. Bluefish of course require an extra-strong leader and mostly strikes larger flies which closely resemble the most popular regional baitfish.
Fly anglers often catch blues incidentally while fishing for stripers, but some fly and light tackle anglers target blues specifically, especially when stripers are absent.
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