Bluefish

pomatomus saltatrix

Average Weight 3 lb. - 15 lb.
Peak Weight 30 lb.
IGFA Record 31.8 lb.

Temperature Zones 17°C - 21°C

Common Names Bluefish, Snappers, Sea Wolf, Choppers, Slammer

Description: Color blue or greenish blue on back, sides silvery; large mouth; prominent teeth, sharp and compressed; dorsal and anal fins nearly the same size; scales small; lateral line almost straight.

Similar fish: NONE.

Where found: Young usually inshore spring and summer; moving offshore to join adults in fall and winter; strong migration of northeast Atlantic stock to Florida east coast in winter.

Range: W. Atlantic Range: Cape Cod to Argentina

Size: Most west coast catches under 3 pounds, much larger on east coast, up to 14 pounds.

Distribution and Life History: Bluefish are a schooling, migratory pelagic species that occur seasonally in Florida's inshore and continental shelf waters. In the western Atlantic, bluefish range from Nova Scotia, Canada, along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. to Cuba's northwest coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the South American coast from Colombia to Argentina. Tagging and mt DNA analyses show that sufficient mixing occurs between the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts of the U.S. to maintain a single genetic stock (Miller 1969, Graves et al. 1992), although mixing may be limited enough to consider the two groups as separate fishery stocks. Bluefish are voracious carnivores feeding on a wide variety of pelagic or demersal fishes and invertebrates. Bluefish grow rapidly and achieve a size of 32" fork length in about 10 years. The maximum age reached by bluefish appears to be about 11 years. Bluefish reach sexual maturity before attaining age 2. Spawning occurs during April and May near the inner reaches of the Gulf Stream off Florida's Atlantic coast and during April and October-November in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Remarks: Travels in large schools, following schools of baitfish; cannibalistic; all members of a given school about the same size; spawning occurs offshore in spring and summer. If Bluefish came as big as Stripers... They'd EAT your boat!

The bluefish belongs to the family Pomatomidae, the only fish in this family. While the average weight is around 2 lbs, they can reach 20 lbs. They have a greenish, iridescent blue shading into silver on the sides. Baby bluefish, called snapper blues, are more flatish, and are found in the local lagoons from late May through September. The base of the pectoral fin usually has a black blotch. There are two dorsal fins, with the front dorsal being more spiny.

Bluefish are a popular gamefish and can be caught by a number of means, including trolling, chumming, and jigging. Many local party and charter boats feature night time chumming trips to hot spots such as the Mud Hole and the Barnegat Ridge throughout the summer. The largest bluefish are generally taken in this manner. While bluefish are not generally regarded as a highly desirable food fish due to their dark, oily meat, the smaller ones (under 2 lbs.) are actually quite good eating as their meat is still mostly white. Unknown to many anglers is that the best part of a larger bluefish for table fare is a nice chunk of white meat found on the cheek of the bluefish.

The Bluefish is one of the world's premiere light tackle fish. When hooked, it'll leap, often consecutively. And then it bears down, turning its powerful body against you. A feeding bluefish is fearless, fights to the end, and then considers your fingers for dessert. Since these ravenous fish are distributed Atlantic-wide in most warm temperate waters, they are popular quarry. In a sense, they fill an inshore niche in the ocean almost equivalent to that of the Dorado, although found in a more restricted range.

Blues grow their largest in the Eastern Atlantic, specimens reaching 30 lbs. The eastern fish are caught in the Azores, Canary Islands, and from France on down to coastal Africa. They are also large in the Mediterranean. Most smaller Bluefish are kept to eat, the larger ones released. They are coastal by nature, growing quickly and spawning prolifically when stocks are healthy. Unlike so many of our premium salt water gamefish, Bluefish don't need drastic conservation measures. The flesh tallows out quickly and larger bluefish are impossible to sell on a large commercial scale.

There are many ways to catch these voracious schooling fish. Take into account that their teeth are razor sharp and their jaws are powerful. So, wire leader is essential. A 2- or 3-ounce crocodile spoon is the lure of choice, especially if the blues are schooling and within casting distance. If you're surf fishing, a pyramid sinker rig with wire leader, baited with a live pinfish or other small bait-fish will catch bluefish. Dead or live shrimp will catch blues as well. They love cut bait with mullet topping their menu. The bluefish is a strong fighter and you must be very careful removing the hook once you have landed one, or they could give you a nasty bite. A pair of pliers is a necessity to unhook your catch. Remember that these fish are generally found in schools, so after landing one, cast out as soon as possible for another hookup. Although most blues weigh in the 3- to 5-pound range, they can weigh as much as 14 pounds.

GAME QUALITIES: Outstanding fighter at all sizes. Strong runs and frequent jumps.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Light casting and spinning tackle is adequate in most instances, along with surf tackle for beach and pier fishing. Many big fish, during those aforementioned unpredictable runs, will put light trolling tackle to a good test. Heavy leaders are usually necessary to prevent clipoffs by the Blue's sharp teeth. Stout monofilament leaders usually suffice, but wire can be used too. Bluefish are ravenous as both predators and scavengers and will take virtually any popular baitŠlive and cut fish, cut squid, live shrimp. Fast-moving artificials work best, with the nod going to noisy surface plugs, jigs, spoons and swimming plugs, in about that order. Often, though, feeding Blues will slash at anything thrown their way.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing; Trolling.