Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Get prepared for a bluefish invasion
Bluefish feeding is very much affected by weather changes. It’s a given that on a cloudy or stormy day with an east wind, the bluefish will be on-the-feed near shore and up into the coastal rivers. They are easy to catch under those conditions. But on a west wind during the first part of a high pressure moving in, they tend to go deep and often get lockjaw. Times like that you will have to work very hard for your catch. One trick that may produce results under those conditions is to troll deep with either downriggers, wire or leadcore line. Shiny spoons and swimbaits will (may?) work under those conditions.
To avoid lots of problems with gear loss and tangles, keep your trolling patterns well away from lobster buoys and areas with a lot of bottom structure.
Fishing gear choice will either make or break your bluefish trip. Bluefish are nothing like stripers when it comes to gear choice. First of all they have very sharp teeth and either very strong mono of fluro leaders will work at times, wire leaders seem to be the answer to that question, with one caveat. Don’t think that you can catch bluefish and striped bass with that same wire leader, at least any numbers of stripers. They are very line and leader shy. But the wire leaders don’t seem to bother the bluefish and will withstand a hit from even the largest ones.
Another difference is that bluefish can and often will jump when hooked. Don’t panic at this event, it adds a lot of excitement to playing a bluefish. Some anglers will drop their rod (called bowing) at the jump but unless you’re fly fishing or using a light line test, just hold on during the aerial show. The good thing about being a striper angler fishing for bluefish is that your rods and reels, unless they are ultra-light, will work but expect a lengthy battle. Hey, that’s a big part of the bluefishing fun.
Your terminal tackle, hooks, swivels, snaps or sinkers should not be shiny. Bluefish love shiny things and are apt to bite at them and cut your line. They are so entranced with shiny metal that often a bluefish will hit a shiny hook of a lure that has another bluefish attached to a second hook on the line, thus catching double bluefish on the same lure is very possible.
Too many anglers will move their boats in too close to a bluefish blow-up and put the fish down. Try to quietly move your boat into the path of a feeding school. Then you can cast any number of lures or even bait and not put them down and off the feed. Surface poppers are especially effective on surface feeding bluefish but swimming lures such as Rapalas, Rebels and any of the swimming lures used for stripers will work.
If you prefer to bait fish, many successful bluefish anglers will suspend a live pollock, mackerel or herring five or six feed below the surface using any suitable bobber, with kid’s balloons probably the most popular. They don’t need to be blown-up any larger than a softball, or to whatever size it takes to keep your bait suspended.
Be aware that a bluefish is apt to cut your bait in half and not return for the rest of it, nor does it seem that other bluefish will hit that chunk. But often there are stripers feeding on the remains of a bluefish feeding spree down near bottom so it’s a good idea to drop a chunk of bait down near bottom and see if you can also catch a striper or two.
Bluefish have an undeserved reputation as being unfit to eat. That’s because many anglers don’t take the proper care and precautions. Different methods for best eating are to fillet soon, bleed as quick as possible or gill and gut quickly. The fish should be put on ice immediately after dressing them.
Dick Pinney’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.
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