I remember as a kid pestering my father to let me graduate from going out on the Sheepshead Bay Fluke fishing boats to those that headed a bit further offshore in search of Bluefish. The first time I hooked a big Bluefish I realized that what everyone had said about this mainstay of Northeast fisherman was true, those bastards could fight! Pound for pound the Bluefish is one of the toughest fighters in the ocean.
Where to go for Bluefish
Although Bluefish fishing is mostly considered a Northeast fish, they are in fact caught throughout the Atlantic, and in the United States from Maine all the way down to Florida. Many of us who grew up in the bays and canals of in the Northeast can remember our dads taking us to the bay to fish for Snappers, (not the Florida reef fish). “Snappers” in areas of Long Island NY and most other Coastal communities along the east coast are actually baby Bluefish, and their voracious feeding habits are a demonstration of what is to come when they reach 5,10 or even up to 20 pounds!
Methods of Bluefish fishing
The methods for catching is understanding that they are aggressive feeders and almost always feed in large schools. Locating diving birds is a preferred method of locating the schools of blues that are engaged in tearing apart schools of baitfish such as Menhaden (also called Bunker in the Northeast), Herring or any other small fish they can find. Bluefish can be found both inshore and offshore although the charter boats usually head into deeper water and areas that hold “Monster Blues.” Chumming which is a favorite method of those Bluefish fishing and is usually best done far away from the crowded beaches in the summer.
The methods for catching Bluefish is varied but most people who don’t have friends with private boats need to head down to the marina and pay the daily rate for getting on one of the many fishing boats targeting Bluefish. Jigging and Bait fishing are the preferred method on the party boats.
When to fish for Blues
The really hot and heavy fishing for Bluefish gets going in the Summer months in the North, and boats from New jersey, New York and other Northern coastal ports begin running both morning and evening trips for these fish as soon as they show up, and continue well into the fall. One of the great things about Bluefish is that you can also catch them from local piers and jetties as they follow the smaller baitfish into shallower and more protected waters. Just follow the large schools of baitfish and there is a very good chance feeding Bluefish will be in the area.
How to find Bluefish
Once the Bluefish begin to feed you will be able to witness one of the true spectacles of the ocean as they begin ripping through schools of baitfish. Sea Birds diving into the ocean like someone turned on the open sign at an all you can eat buffet is a sight to behold. If you are fishing from a private boat make certain you don’t run right into the schools of feed fish as that is a sure way to send them down and draw the anger of other anglers who want to cast to the feeding Bluefish. Try determining the direction the Bluefish feeding frenzy is moving and try to position your boat well ahead of it, and let them come to you. If you are trolling spoons or umbrella rigs try working the edges of diving birds.
Bait Fishing Tackle for Bluefish
Since you will be fishing with many other people of varied abilities I suggest that those newer to catching Bluefish go a bit heavier in their tackle choices while those that are old salts can adjust accordingly. I would suggest using 30 to 40 pound test monofilament on matching rod and reel. Those who are familiar with hybrid lines and braided lines, well you know what you are doing already.
The birds don’t often do their job in locating the schools of feeding Bluefish for you and it may be necessary to anchor and chum and wait for the schools of Blues to show up.
Jigging for Bluefish
Another favorite method of catching Bluefish is by jigging. Jigging does not mean standing on the bow of fishing boat casting wildly. Let the boat do the work and drift over where the electronics or birds are indicating fish and begin jigging throughout the water column to find the fish. Casting on a party boat is just rude and frowned upon. Jigging is a good method if you are a later arrival to the boat and the only spots are way up near the bow. It is an up and down motion while reeling. If you are not sure about jigging then don’t do it! Let a crew member teach you first. Most crew members are expert fisherman and generally good guys who work mostly on tips.
These Bluefish fishing tips are mostly geared towards fishing on the party or head boats, but we will soon add some articles on trolling and fishing from shore for Bluefish. But if I had to give you one piece of fishing that I have learned about fishing for Bluefish, it would be watch for the birds!