Fishing for Northeast Bluefish
One of the most popular game fish off the Northeast coast of the Atlantic is the Bluefish. They eat aggressively making them relatively easy to catch. However, they put up quite a fight making them fun to catch. They rarely get larger than 20 pounds, so they can be targeted on almost any type of Atlantic.
The feeding habits of the bluefish are known as some of the most opportunistic and aggressive of any fish. Their primary food sources are a variety of small-bodied animals such as shrimp, small lobsters, crabs, larval fish and larval mollusks. The adult fish will also go after schooling species such as menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring, mackerel, alewives, scup, butterfish and cunners. So basically they will eat anything they can take down.
These fish have large teeth and use them effectively. I once heard a story of a man reeling in a two pound fish of another species when a school of bluefish happened upon his line. They attacked ferociously taking bite after bite out of the fish. The bluefish ate every ounce of fish while carefully avoiding the hook. When he reeled it into the boat there was only a small bit of meat left where the two pound fish was once hooked.
In this article we will cover some of the strategies that can help you find a school of bluefish and help you bring in a good catch. We hope you find our tips useful.
Where and When
You can fish for bluefish from a boat or from shore. The summer feed is hot in the western Long Island Sound during July and August. Over the past several years, the number of baitfish in these waters has steadily increased. Amazingly enough, you will catch most of your fish with the Manhattan skyline in the background. When using light gear, you can literally bring in as many fish as your arms will allow before they tire out.
I would love to tell you that there is a magical time or location for bluefish, but there is not. They simply feed all day and feed anywhere there is food available. As with any fish, your odds are slightly better during dusk and dawn when the light is limited. This will make any fish more comfortable as they attack their prey. Also, underwater cover can be a good hiding spot for bluefish. However, they spend most of their time schooled up and stalking a group of baitfish. They will continue to follow their meal until they find the ideal opportunity, so staying hidden only happens for short windows.
I can say that much of strategy for bluefish is counterintuitive to any other type of fishing. Normally when you find fish that are biting, you stick with your spot. This is true of anything from striped bass to trout. However, bluefish are constantly moving. They are not likely to stick by underwater structures if they see a food source somewhere else. Do not focus on any particular section of water. Instead look for signs of where fish are located at that moment.
One of the best techniques to finding bluefish is to follow flocks of birds. As a school of bluefish starts to attack, they drive the baitfish closer to the surface. This is an easy meal for the gulls in the area. The birds can be high flying, bee lining, screaming, wet roosting, or dry roosting. Each of these activities means something different for you as a fisherman.
Gulls flying high means that there are baitfish within view, but they are likely too deep for the birds to reach. They are simply biding their time until a school of bluefish get them moving. If you see several gulls flying in the same direction at a lower elevation, this is a good sign. They are probably getting ready to attack. When you hear them start screaming, you know that they have started to feed. When gulls get excited, they cannot contain their enthusiasm.
Even a lack of activity can mean something as you read gulls. If you see several birds floating on the water, this likely means that they just finished feeding. Often gulls will stay for quite some time after they fill their bellies. On the contrary, if you see gulls resting on rocks or other above-water structures it means that there is a large number of baitfish in the area. However, it means they have not surfaced in quite some time.
Light gear is most commonly used for fishing bluefish. Typically a 6.5 to 7 foot rod is fine to bring in almost any bluefish you will run across. Wire leaders are essential as the razor sharp teeth of these fish will slice through even 80 pound test line. However, for the rest of your line a 20 pound test braided or gel line is typically most effective. This gives you the distance you need on your cast and still allows you to feel every twitch as the fish start to feed. The rod and reel need to be quality with a good drag as the fish will put it to the test. The most important aspect is that your gear allows you to cast a seven inch lure.
As for lures, do not get too picky. These fish strike on impulse and do not get very logical when they bite. Your best bet is a surface lure that is five to seven inches long. Ideally you want a lure that offers a great deal of motion and makes lots of noise. Bluefish will often strike a lure that is half its body size, so do not worry about going too big with your lure. Also, larger lures will allow you to get a longer cast.
Hopefully these tips will help you find success with your next bluefish venture. Remember to be patient with these fish. They may have to bite at your lure several times before they get hooked. If they miss, just keep going with the same retrieve that got them interested. They will keep striking until they think they have lunch.