Monday, September 27, 2010

Pomatomus saltatrix or The Bluefish

The only species in the family Pomatomidae  ,  the Bluefish is one of the most widely distributed game fish in the world. Known as Tailors in Australia , as Shad or Elf in parts of Africa and as Bluefish here in the U.S. , they are a fish that many people love and that many people love to hate. Bluefish are famous for biting off lures and even attacking other fish before the angler can get them out of the water. There are even reports of this fish attacking swimmers , though not verified. I have heard many seasoned old fisherman say they would rather take their chances with a shark than to swim through a school of feeding Bluefish.

Why are they so vicious? Bluefish have a single row of razor sharp teeth on both the upper and lower jaw and a hearty appetite. They travel in schools of similar sized fish because smaller Bluefish wouldn't last long around their bigger relatives. Bluefish are capable of decimating an entire school of bait fish in a matter of minutes , with all of the smaller fish either eaten or beached in an attempt to escape. This is known as a " Blitz " and it is truly an awesome sight to behold.

The Bluefish's ravenous appetite is also their greatest weakness. They will repeatedly strike at just about anything that passes in front of them. For this reason , they are easy to catch using several different methods.

My favorite has always been sight casting to them with a Gotcha Lure. It's simple , cheap and highly effective. The lure should be attached to an 18 inch 40 or 50 lb. leader to prevent bite offs. The leader can be attached to the main line by using a swivel or by tying an Albright Knot. Fish the lure fast and jerk the rod tip to make it move left and right to trigger strikes. You may have to vary the rate of your retrieve until you find the depth that the Bluefish are feeding at. Be prepared for hard strikes because quite often 10 to 15 Bluefish may go after your lure at once. It's even possible to hook two at the same time and if you watch the fish as you reel him in you will frequently see other Bluefish try to take the lure out of his mouth!

Another good way to catch Bluefish is by using a Fireball Rig baited with cut bait or finger mullets. This rig is basically a bottom fishing rig with bright colored styrofoam " Fireballs " above the hooks to keep the bait off of the bottom. I like to fish Fireball Rigs just behind the inner sandbar because Bluefish will frequently chase schools of bait fish onto the bar as they feed.

These fish can also be taken in various other ways including trolling , fly fishing and the use of various other real and artificial baits. Regardless of how you catch them , always take care when handling bluefish. Many unwary anglers have had nasty cuts from the teeth of this aggressive fish. They are one of the few fish that will try to bite your fingers as you unhook them. I handle them by gripping them behind their gills and using needle nose pliers to remove the hooks.

Eating bluefish is a subject that is constantly debated by anglers. I like them , but others are often turned off by their strong flavor. They are excellent grilled or smoked and fairly good fried. They are certainly worth trying for anyone who enjoys fish.

Have a great week!

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