Scientific Name: Pomatomus saltatrix
Ideal Temp: 66-82°F (19-28°C)
Environment: Inshore, Nearshore, Surf
Technique: Casting, Fly, Trolling
Lure Type: Flies, Plugs, Spoons, Topwater, Trolling
World Record: 14.4 kg (31 lb 12 oz) Hatteras, North Carolina , USA
The bluefish, called tailor in Australia, is a species of popular marine gamefish found in all climates. It is the only extant species of the Pomatomidae family.
The bluefish is a moderately proportioned fish, with a broad, forked tail. The spiny first dorsal fin is normally folded back in a groove, as are its pectoral fins. Coloration is a grayish blue-green dorsally, fading to white on the lower sides and belly. Its single row of teeth in each jaw are uniform in size, knife-edged and sharp. Bluefish commonly range in size from seven-inch (18-cm) "snappers" to much larger, sometimes weighing as much as 30 pounds, though fish heavier than twenty pounds (9 kg) are exceptional.
Bluefish are found off Florida in the winter months. By April, they have disappeared, heading north. By June, they may be found off Massachusetts; in years of high abundance, stragglers may be found as far north as Nova Scotia. By October, they leave New England waters, heading south. They are also present in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year.
Depending on area and season, they favor menhaden and other sardine-like fish (Clupeidae), jacks (Scombridae), weakfish (Sciaenidae), grunts (Haemulidae), striped anchovies (Engraulidae), shrimp and squid. They should be handled with care due to their ability to snap at an unwary hand.
Bluefish are extremely aggressive, and will often chase bait through the surf zone, and literally onto dry beach. Thousands of big bluefish will attack schools of hapless baitfish in mere inches of water, churning the water like a washing machine. This behavior is referred to as a "bluefish blitz". Baitfish, such as bunker, will willingly run themselves high and dry on the sand, where they will suffocate, rather than be shredded by the marauding bluefish schools.
Bluefish are cannibalistic. Some hypothesize that because of cannibalistic behavior, bluefish tend to swim in schools of similarly sized specimens. Others hypothesize that bluefish school with like-sized individuals, because they swim at the same rate, thus expending the same energy when traveling, and thus having identical food intake requirements. Bluefish are preyed upon at all stages of their life cycle. As juveniles, they fall victim to a wide variety of oceanic predators, including striped bass, larger bluefish, fluke (summer flounder), weakfish, tuna, sharks, rays, and dolphins. As adults, bluefish are taken by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and many other species.
Bluefish eagerly take a wide variety of fresh baits. Live or cut menhaden, mullet, mackerel, spearing, killifish, eels, squid, shrimp, ladyfish pieces, bunker or similar baitfish are all productive, especially when matched to whatever bluefish may be primarily feeding on at the time. Bluefish eagerly take artificial baits, as well. Either trolled or cast with a fast retrieve, shiny spoons and the full range of bright-colored plugs, jigs, plus fluorescent-colored tube lures are all effective. Noisy surface lures at dawn or dusk near a sharp dropoff or in shallow water are also productive, which many fisherman find adds to the excitement as a bluefish attacks their lure on the surface. Bluefish will occasionally "skyrocket"—leap out of the water before landing on and attacking a top water lure or live bait fished at the surface—a spectacular sight for most fishermen.
Little skill is needed to hook a bluefish when a school is in a feeding frenzy. They will ravenously strike any natural bait or shiny lure—even a shiny coin tossed into their midst. When in a feeding frenzy, bluefish will go after anything that poses a threat.
Bluefish are known to strike just about any type of lure. Topwater plugs, such as bottleneck and pencil poppers offer anglers the most exciting lure strikes, as the bluefish will smack the lures with spectacular ferocity. Metal lures, such as Hopkins, Kastmaster, AOK, AVA and Krocodile will catch bluefish in almost all situations.
Medium-light to medium weight spinning or bait-casting rigs are standard. Eight- to 12-pound-test line is common when targeting bluefish in the one to three pound range, while 20-pound-test line and matched tackle may be the choice when targeting larger specimens, such as pictured above.
Fishermen typically present natural baits on a size 3/0 or 4/0 hook, sometimes followed by a smaller "stinger" hook. These are attached to wire tippets about 6 inches long, which are attached either by swivel or Albright Special to 3 to 5 feet (1.5 m) of 50- to 80-pound-test monofilament leader. Larger hooks are appropriate for larger baits and bluefish. Some fishermen, instead, choose only a heavy monofilament leader attached to a long-shank hook, which usually avoids the bluefish's sharp teeth. Artificial lures are presented on similar leader arrangements. Steel leaders are a benefit, since the fish's razor-sharp teeth will cleanly snip through any normal fishing line.
Some adventuresome anglers target bluefish with flyrods tipped with large, brightly colored and tinsel-lined streamers or surface poppers. Due to their schooling and ravenous feeding habits, bluefish are among the easier ocean-faring targets for those trying their hand at heavy fly tackle.
Some anglers “sniff out” bluefish by their smell, which is something like fresh cucumbers. Fishing methods include trolling, chumming, casting, jigging, and live and dead bait fishing from boats, shores or piers. Live baits are best, but plugs, lures or feathers are also used. The flesh tends to become soft if not eaten soon after capture. It does not keep well if frozen