The Bluefish holds a special place not only in the hearts of game fishermen everywhere, but in science. This species is the only existing species left from the family Potmatomidae. Known for fighting when it’s on the line, the Bluefish is a great gamefish for those wanting to experience saltwater fishing.
What is a Bluefish?
The Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is a widely distributed marine fish that also goes by the names tailor, elf, or shad depending on where in the world you are. They are populous and, despite being marine fish, can be found in brackish as well as salt water. It’s heavily debated among anglers whether or not this fish is a good food source, but we’ll dig into that later.
Why is it Called a Bluefish?
The Bluefish was named simply for its coloration, an attractive silver-blue that deepens along the dorsal area and tapers to a dark tail.
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What Type of Fish is a Bluefish?
This is a pelagic species, meaning they populate a large section of the open ocean. Pelagic fish don’t prefer the shore or bottom of the ocean, as do other fish. Instead, they travel throughout the water column.
Like many ocean fish, Bluefish are migratory and will move with the water temperatures. They are aggressive predators in the ocean and getting one in the boat can be a struggle–though usually a fun one.
What Does A Bluefish Look Like?
Bluefish have the stereotypical “fish” shape to them, with a long body, fork tail, and dorsal/pectoral/anal fins. Their bodies are streamlined with gray-blue-green-silver coloration, darkening along the dorsal section and growing light toward the belly and sides. They have sharp teeth and large, hard mouths.
Bluefish inhabit the open ocean and are comfortable in a wide variety of water temperatures. They hang out in the water column looking for prey and often traveling in schools, a habit that makes them popular for party fishing or charter boats.
Some of the larger schools have been known to cover tens of miles in the open ocean. These fish migrate, moving north in the spring and summer when water temperatures rise, and south in the fall and winter to warmer waters.
Unlike many fish, Bluefish do not travel toward shore to spawn. Instead, females release their eggs into the open ocean, keeping the population in one big habitat. However, they can also be found off of the coast when they chase prey in, in surf water, or above the continental shelf.
Where Can I Find Bluefish?
In the US, Bluefish are easy to find along the east coast. During spring and summer they’ll travel up to New York and follow the coast all the way to Nova Scotia. In fall and winter, schools travel south to Florida. Some travel into and inhabit the Gulf of Mexico.
They can also be found in the ocean surrounding Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
What Do Bluefish Eat?
Bluefish are voracious fish with big appetites. They travel and hunt in large groups, preying on schools of smaller fish. Some anglers have noted that this species will continue eating prey even after they should be satiated, making them appear to be a frenzied species.
Some of the Bluefish’s favorite prey includes:
How to Catch a Bluefish?
One of the best things about Bluefish is that there are so many different ways to catch them. Whether you prefer shore fishing, pier fishing or trolling out on the open ocean, you’re bound to come across this species.
The first, and most important, part of Bluefish fishing is to make sure you have the correct gear. Because they are large and aggressive, your rod and line will need to hold up to a bigger weight and abrasion. You may want to purchase a handheld gaf or a large net to help bring the fish in.
Bait isn’t much of a problem for Bluefish. They’ll go after cut squid, shrimp, minnows, or any kind of bait fish. Cutting bait fish in half will draw attention to them as their oils release in the water. Artificial lures should mimic the Bluefish’s favorite bait and be resistant to their sharp teeth.
Jigging, trolling, and casting are all great ways to catch Bluefish. Using circle hook jigs is a sure way to not only keep a fish on your line, but prevent killing them with a swallowed hook. Circle hooks perfectly hook just inside the jaw and are easy to remove.
What Is the Bluefish Blitz?
When a large school of Bluefish gets particularly aggressive and herds schools of prey into shallow water, this is called a blitz. Water will visibly churn and you can sometimes see fish breaking the water at this time. With such shallow water, some Bluefish will even beach themselves in the frenzy.
How Big Do Bluefish Get?
The average size of a Bluefish is anywhere from 8 inches to 2 ft. Bluefish over 2 years of age range from 15-20 inches.
How Fast Do Bluefish Grow?
Bluefish are a fast-growing fish, able to reproduce at age 2 when they’re in the 18 inch size range.
What is the World Record Bluefish Fish?
According to the International Game Fish Association, the largest Bluefish ever caught weighed in at 31 lbs 12 oz. This fish was caught by James Hussey in 1972, just off of North Carolina.
What is the Lifespan of a Bluefish?
As a large predator of the ocean, Bluefish live longer than many species. They can easily reach 9-12 years of age and are preyed upon only by humans, sharks, billfishes and tuna.
Are Bluefish Good to Eat?
This is debatable and you’ll get a different answer from each fisherman you talk to. Generally Bluefish are thought to be good eating and are often kept when they’re caught by sportsmen. However, some people think the taste of Bluefish is too strong.
Some of the favorite ways to cook Bluefish include smoking, baking and frying (small Bluefish, called snappers, are often fried). A few fishermen believe that soaking their catch in mayonnaise will help counteract the fishy odor that many people dislike with this species.
What Do Bluefish Taste Like?
Bluefish are very “fishy” in taste, with a strong flavor. They are best eaten fresh as they can go bad quickly, with very moist meat that breaks down fast. The flavor of Bluefish has been compared to that of tuna, swordfish and striped bass.
Is Bluefish High In Mercury?
Yes, Bluefish have high levels of mercury, so it’s important to eat them in moderation. According to some studies, Bluefish caught in the spring had the highest level of mercury compared to other months.
Do Bluefish Have Worms?
Yes; but this isn’t a bad thing. Most, if not all, live fish have worms. It’s a good sign that the meat is fresh. Worms can be easily picked out or, if you prefer, simply cooked. They do no harm as long as the fish is fully cooked. Even fish purchased in supermarkets has worms, however employees either remove the worms or lighten the color of the fish so that the worms are not noticeable.
Can You Freeze Bluefish?
You can freeze Bluefish, but you shouldn’t. Because they have softer flesh, it makes them a poor choice for freezing and reheating, as the flesh will simply fall apart.
Are Bluefish Endangered?
Bluefish are not endangered, however their conservation status is listed as “vulnerable.” In some areas they have been overfished and populations need time to recover.
Do Bluefish Bite Humans?
Bluefish have small, sharp teeth and they will bite humans who either get too close to an aggressive school or are not careful in how they handle the fish. The best thing you can do is learn how to properly handle a this species once it’s on your line. Avoid getting too close to aggressive schools who are on the hunt.
What Fish Is Bluefish Similar To?
Most fishermen compare Bluefish to tuna, striped bass, or swordfish.
When Do Bluefish Spawn?
Bluefish spawn in spring and summer and can spawn multiple times, though not much is known about this part of their lives. Females spawn in open water and can release anywhere from 400,000 to 2 million eggs.
What is The Difference Between Bluefish and White Fish?
White Fish is a name applied to several different fish species including:
Most White Fish feed closer to the bottom of the ocean as opposed to the higher water column that Bluefish prefer. White Fish have less fat and more oil, giving them a more appealing flavor profile. Many people prefer White Fish to Bluefish when it comes to taste.
Whether you’re just getting into saltwater fishing or you’re a pro looking for a challenge, Bluefishing is always satisfying. These fish pack a real punch on the other end of the line. They’re an important food source and a fun game fish to go after as well. Happy fishing!