Species spotlight: Bluefish

(Photo by David Brown)
(Photo by David Brown)

Like ‘em or not, they are fierce fighters found around the globe

Known for their fierce fighting ability and for often biting soft plastic fishing lures in half, bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) get mixed reviews from anglers.

Some anglers are big fans of bluefish, but others find them to be more of a nuisance than a prized catch. It’s a fairly mundane-looking fish, usually featuring blue (sometimes blue-green) on their backs, fading to silver or white along their sides and belly.

One somewhat distinct feature is that bluefish have two dorsal fins, with the second (rearward) one being larger than the front dorsal. These fish also have seemingly oversized, yellow eyes. They have razor-sharp teeth and use them indiscriminately on their prey, often leaving chunks of flesh in their wakes.

Anglers also give bluefish mixed reviews for their food quality. Some anglers love to eat them smoked or grilled. But just as many other anglers refuse to eat them no matter how they are prepared.

Found almost anywhere

Bluefish are pelagic fish, and can be found all over the globe. Anglers catch them everywhere from the deep sea to nearshore reefs, inshore marshes, piers and in the surf. They will bite just about any type of bait or lure, and are often targeted with single-hook Clarkspoons or lures with small treble hooks like GOT-CHA plugs. Wire leaders or very heavy mono lines are essential due to the quick cutting ability of the fish’s teeth.

Anglers often call larger bluefish “choppers” or chopper bluefish. Other nicknames include blue, old blue, blue snapper, blue chopper, blue gator, and harbor blue.
Bluefish are one of only a few species in the world that do not have any known relatives. They travel in schools — sometimes very large schools, and they cause surface frenzies when hungry, as big numbers of them slash relentlessly at baitfish.

They are not picky eaters, and if they can chop it up into bite-sized pieces, bluefish will go for it. Very young bluefish eat plankton, but they turn to other fish once they are big enough. They also serve as prey to numerous larger fish species, including sharks, striped bass, tuna, billfish, dolphinfish, and porpoises. When very small, they are often eaten by larger bluefish.

When spawning, female bluefish lay anywhere from 400,000 to 2 million eggs, which drift with the current for about 48 hours before hatching. Hatched bluefish measure only about .08 inches in length.

Mississippi’s state record bluefish weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces. It was caught by Joe Krebs in 1984. The world record bluefish, a 31-pound, 12-ounce fish, was caught by James Hussey in Hatteras, N.C. in January of 1972.

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