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Bluefish

Posted by on Mar 28, 2000 1:13 PM | Fishing Tips & Techniques
Bluefish Bluefish NOAA

Appearance

Bluefish are blue-green on the back and silvery on the sides and belly. They have a pointed snout and a prominent jaw, with sharp, compressed teeth.

Maximum Size

Up to 31 pounds (14 kg).

Growth Rate

Fast.

Geographic Range

Bluefish can be found in most temperate coastal areas throughout the world, except the eastern Pacific. Along the U.S. Atlantic coast, bluefish are found from Maine to Florida.

Habitat

Eggs are released into the open ocean. Larvae develop into juveniles near the surface in continental shelf waters and eventually move to estuarine and nearshore shelf habitats. Juveniles prefer sandy bottoms but will also inhabit mud, silt, or clay bottoms or vegetated areas. Adults use both inshore and offshore areas and favor warmer water.

Life Span

Up to 12 years

Food

Bluefish are voracious predators, feeding primarily on squid and fish, particularly menhaden and smaller fish such as silversides.

Reaches Reproductive Maturity

At age 2 and 19 inches (48.3 cm) in length.

Reproduction

Depending on size, fecundity (reproductive potential) has been estimated to range from 400,000 to 2,000,000 eggs.

Spawning

Bluefish spawn in the South Atlantic Bight during the spring, and again in the offshore waters of the Middle Atlantic Bight during summer.

Migrations

Bluefish migrate seasonally with as water temperatures change. In the winter, large bluefish tend to remain in the Middle Atlantic Bight then move south to North Carolina by March. Small fish move farther south in winter; some spend the winter off the coast of Florida. As water temperatures rise, bluefish migrate back north in the South Atlantic Bight, and by summer, bluefish move further north into the Middle Atlantic Bight.

Predators

Sharks, tunas, and billfishes are the only predators large and fast enough to prey on adult bluefish. Oceanic birds prey on juvenile bluefish.

Information above courtesy of NOAA.

The Thrill of Catching Blue Fish

Since they are so aggressive, catching blue fish is more about the battle to bring the fish in than it is about enticing a bite. Anglers who head out to sea with a skilled captain almost always catch dozens of these voracious fish.

Blue fish fights are legendary among fans of this fish, so don’t be surprised if you wind up with an incredible story to tell when you go after what many people refer to as ‘Choppers’.

What are Blue Fish?

To make a comparison that most people can understand, think of blue fish as large ocean going piranhas and you won’t be far off the mark. They are found all throughout the world’s seas in nearly all climates. While the specific scientific name is Pomatomus saltatrix, they are generally called blue fish, shad, tailer or chopper – due to their impressive array of very sharp teeth.

Blue fish are exceptionally aggressive and they feed on just about anything smaller than themselves – including other blue fish. When they start to feed, they churn the water up so powerfully that many anglers say it looks as if a washing machine is in action. Schools of bait fish, such as sardines, end up being annihilated by blue fish and often this is how a captain will spot a school of blues.

While they have been recorded up to 40 lbs in size, most anglers tend to catch fish 20 lbs and smaller. Since they can be as deep as 200 feet, one never knows where they will be, but most angler prefer to go after fish already seen feeding near the surface of the water.

In the United States, blue fish spend the winter in Florida, heading back up the Atlantic coast as the waters warm. During the warm months they can be found as far north as Canada before they migrate back down the coast when Fall arrives.

Blue fish can be cooked, although their meat is described as being an acquired taste due to its intense flavor.

It cannot be understated how aggressive these fish are. They have been known to pursue their prey so viciously that they end up on the beach and die there. They are preyed on their entire life cycle by sharks, rays, tuna and dolphins – and each other. These fish are cannibals so they travel in schools of similar sized fish which helps them avoid turning on one another.

Gear, Bait and Tackle for Blue Fish

The first things you need to catch blue fish other than a sturdy boat with a knowledgeable captain, is a strong saltwater rod and reel. Make sure you can handle the fight, though, because blue fish will challenge your physical strength.

You will want to have a main line of 50 to 80 pound test. Steel leaders are a must because the teeth on blue fish will cut straight through most fishing lines.

A natural bait or artificial lure can be chosen. Any small bait fish such as sardines or even chunks of mackerel can work just fine. Blue fish will strike at most anything, so the bait is not nearly as important as being sure to load it with hooks. A 3/0 or 4/0 hook with an additional stinger is the preferred method for most anglers using live bait.

Blue Fish in New Jersey

Those who seek the true blue fish experience at its finest swear by the fact that the waters off the New Jersey coast have some of the best, most aggressive blues in the world. These are dominant, aggressive feeders with an attitude.

Blue fish in New Jersey (NJ) is such a blast because the furious action can lead to several people on the same chartered boat all getting bites at once. This is quite a scene because everyone ends up yelling and cheering while the crew tries to make sure the lines don’t get tangled.

Three Blue Fishing Tips

  1. Flocks of birds out over the water can show you where a school of blues are feeding.
  2. If you are planning on chumming, be sure to bring along a variety of chum. Blue fish can be picky once in a while and you want to bring them to the surface so they will start to frenzy.
  3. Up for some high flying action? Watch what happens when you use a flyrod with a brightly colored popper or streamers.

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