Bluefish are known as snappers and choppers for a reason: They pack a nasty set of teeth and know how to use them. To keep a bluefish from using its teeth on your fingers, take a few precautions. First, replace treble hooks on plugs and spoons with single siwash hooks. Replacement hooks with an open eye are easiest to install. If a blue is going into the fish box, a gaff is the safest and quickest way to land it. Look for a model with a 2-inch hook gap and 4-foot handle. Bluefish can shred a landing net in seconds. To slow down their chompers, use a net that has rubber-coated mesh. To remove the hook, use a hook remover. The T-handle models work well on smaller fish, but a hook remover with a long handle and strong pincers will wrest the hook out of bigger blues. Bluefish will fight to the end; you can’t win the battle if you lose a finger.
Rods: Medium-heavy 7-foot conventional for trolling; medium-action 7-foot conventional or spinning for casting; medium-action 9-foot surf rod for surf-fishing.
Reels: 20-pound-class spooled with 65-pound braid for trolling; conventional or spinning to match rod, spooled with 20-pound braided line, for light-tackle fishing; matching conventional or spinning spooled with 20-pound monofilament for surf-fishing.
Lures and Baits: Mann’s Stretch 25 to 50, Rapala Magnum, 11/0 Crippled Alewife, No. 4 1/2 Drone spoons for trolling; Hopkins 3 1/2-ounce No=Eql or Shorty with a single hook, live croaker for casting; mullet rig, 2-ounce Hopkins Shorty for surf-fishing.
Along the mid-Atlantic coast, bluefish can show up almost anywhere at almost any time, but they are most prevalent in spring and fall. As early as March, big blues start showing in numbers on nearshore lumps, hills, reefs and wrecks. Later in the spring, the fish arrive at the beaches and inshore waters. In summer, the fish follow cool water and food north, but the blues reverse their course in early fall. First they show up on the beach and inshore structure, then in late fall they move offshore, where they stay all winter. Blues can handle water between 50 and 70 degrees but prefer temperatures close to the 60 degree mark. These fish will eat almost anything, so look for schools of squid, menhaden, mullet, silversides or sand eels to attract big blues. With more bluefish showing up in more places, these great game fish are becoming easier and easier to find.
What: Chopper bluefish.
When: Spring and fall are best.
Where: Mid-Atlantic reefs, lumps, hills and canyons. Jetties, inlets and surf, especially in deep holes close to the beach.
Capt. John Nedelka
Capt. Mark Sampson
Capt. Aaron Kelly
Capt. Herb Gordon