Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: There's plenty of bluefish if you know where to fish
Those early schools of bluefish don’t seem to hang around very long and tend to be small in number but quite large in the individual size of the fish. But the fish that are due here anytime can have mixed sizes and do tend to stay as long as there is enough feed, which is primarily mackerel and herring.
Shoreline fishing for blues is difficult, only because there are very few spots that shore fishermen can cast to feeding fish as they tend to stick with the offshore bait schools. One of the best and most successful shoreline fishing spots for bluefish is at the mouth of the Merrimack River near Plum Island, Mass.. Here, especially on the outgoing tide off the Merrimack River jetties, bluefish will target baitfish that are being swept out of the funnel of the jetties, with the low end of the outgoing tide pushing them into a smaller area and making them more vulnerable to anglers.
The Merrimack jetties are not the only spot that a shorebound angler can have a crack at these fish. The beaches along Plum Island, especially in periods of low light, can have bluefish right up into the surf chasing baitfish and often there are quite a few striped bass that hang just outside the marauding bluefish, feeding on the fish scraps that the bluefish have created with their slashing sharp teeth.
Boat fishermen also have a good chance at these inshore schools of bluefish but their opportunities extend way out to sea and are not limited. One of the better places to catch a lot of bluefish is around the Isles of Shoals.
There are two terrific spots where the blues love to surround baitfish schools. One is White Island Ledge, which is off the White Island Light House. The surf over the ledges provides hiding places for the bluefish and the currents often put schools of baitfish into disarray. Another spot is Cedar Ledge, which is off of Cedar Island. The same thing often happens there. But know that both of these ledges need to be treated with a lot of respect by boaters as the currents and surf are capable of dragging your boat onto one of the ledge peaks and that is terribly dangerous — so keep your distance.
From shore, casting topwater plugs is a good way of attracting a bluefish to strike as well as using cut or whole dead baitfish. Swimming plugs also work well. The same approach also works for casting to blues that are feeding around those offshore ledges but the favorite method is to use a live baitfish hung about five or six feet under a balloon bobber.
Even late in the season, when baitfish can get very scarce inshore, it’s usually possible to catch some bait-sized mackerel or pollock around the Isles of Shoals. Watch your depthfinder for schools of pollock on the side of ledges that the currents are washing over. These small pollock will hit small flashy jigs and Sabiki-type rigs and often there are some mackerel mixed into the pollock schools.
There’s a bad knock on the eating quality of bluefish but that almost universally comes from improper handling of the fish once caught. Bluefish tend to break down a lot faster than stripers because of the amount of blood in their flesh. For wonderful bluefish eating bleed your freshly caught fish by cutting into the gills or at the caudal peduncle, that little area where the tail is attached to the body. Make sure you hold the fish out over the water when bleeding or you will be a mess, as the blood seems to be able to find you when they shake. An alternative to doing this is to fillet the fish right after catching, but most of the time fishermen don’t want to have to interrupt their fishing when the bluefish are on the bite and have to tend to that later.
Ice is the next ingredient to good eating bluefish. Put them on ice immediately after bleeding or filleting. And keep them very cold until it’s time to cook and eat them. Most recipes for cooking stripers will work for bluefish. We’d walk an extra mile for properly cared for and served as Cajon blackened bluefish.
Dick Pinney column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.
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