Bluefish are migratory marine fish, found worldwide
Bluefish are migratory marine fish, found worldwide
United States migration patterns
'Trolling for blue fish' lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1866.
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.
Bluefish larvae are the size of zooplankton and are largely at the mercy of currents. Spent bluefish have been found off east central Florida, migrating north. As with most marine fish, their spawning habits are not well known. In the western side of the North Atlantic, there are at least two populations, separated by Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. The Gulf Stream can carry larvae spawned to the south of Cape Hatteras to the north, and eddies can spin off, carrying the larvae into populations found off the coast of the mid-Atlantic, and the New England states. The bluefish population is highly cyclical, with abundance varying widely over a span of ten years or more.
Bluefish are voracious, predatory fish and are the only fish known to kill for the sake of killing. 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. In July 2006, a 7 year-old girl was attacked on a beach, near the Spanish town of Alicante, allegedly by a bluefish.
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 theorize that because of cannibalistic behavior, bluefish tend to swim in schools of similarly-sized specimens. Others theorize 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 dolphin. As adults, bluefish are taken by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoise, 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'eap out of the water before landing on and attacking a top water lure or live bait fished at the surface spectacular sight for most fishermen. Fishermen who enjoy using top-water lures for bluefish find they add to the overall excitement as a bluefish attacks their lure on the surface.
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 lureven a shiny coin tossed into their midst. When in a feeding frenzy bluefish will go after any thing that poses a threat.
Bluefish are known to strike just about any type of lure.
Medium-light to medium weight spinning or bait-casting rigs are standard. 8 to 12 pound test line is common when targeting bluefish in the 1 to 3 pound range, while 20 pound test 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 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. In South Africa, this fish is commonly caught on a bare hook as the shining action in the water attracts these sportfish.
Commercial fishermen take bluefish in the one to 4 pound range. Steel leaders are a must since the fish's razor sharp teeth will cleanly snip through any normal fishing line.