“There’s no reason to use those expensive soft plastics, matter of fact, leave the hard plastics in the bag as well. I once witnessed one nearly chew one of those ten dollar Mann’s lures in half. You’re just going to waste your money on shrimp. Hell, if you’re going to fish with anything at all today you might as well just use a spoon. The Bluefish are here!”
As a young kid my limited but “concrete” knowledge about fishing was built early in the morning by those old men behind the counter at fish camps; the same ones that smelled of coffee, cigarettes and had an encyclopedic knowledge of what baits to use where and what time of year. If these backwater, outdoor philosophers decreed that the bluefish were no good then it must be so, but the truth was (to my shame) I kind of liked catching bluefish. I had always believed that blue fish had been unfairly vilified with sports fisherman around the southeast. The bluefish do destroy baits, block you from getting your baits to more prized fish like Redfish and trout but when looked at objectively these fish can be a whole lot of fun; Oh and they’re quite tasty as well.
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During the winter months they run just off the beach. Traveling in large schools, the bites come in a rapid succession. They vary in size from two pounds to as large as twenty and can be caught with surf rods usually with just a fluorocarbon surf leader and a bit of shrimp. You can sight fish them as well, I like using a seven foot medium heavy rod with a medium size spinning reel, casting a Clark spoon at schools of blues in the surf. Don’t be surprised if you get a violent hit and reel in nothing but a chewed through leader, I recommend using thirty or forty pound braid and tying it directly to the hook using the Palomar knot.
The true hatred and frustration occurs inshore, deep in the backwater creeks where anglers cast for those slot Redfish and gator trout only to find their baits intercepted time and time again by the piranha like bluefish. The initial bite is very similar to a trout but harder followed by a rough fight, tricking most anglers into thinking they have a prized fish on the line only to see their elation fade away, followed by a stream of cuss words at the sight of a mangy ole bluefish. In the spring, like most fish around that time, the bluefish follow the baitfish into the inlets all the way to the back creeks. These back creeks are where trout and Redfish make their living, hiding in the grass and ambushing passing mullet and mud minnows. As previously mentioned, expensive artificial baits are not a great idea here; you can still use that Clark spoon that worked just fine in the surf with little to no damage or inexpensive dead shrimp hooked through the tail, with a 1/8 red jig head attached.
I suppose that there’s a direct correlation to the value we place on fish and the difficulty of preparation involved with the fish. If you think about the coveted tuna or any variety of salmon, I often wonder how anglers can resist carrying a bottle of soy sauce in their tackle bag and enjoying their catch before they even make it to shore. That is the problem with bluefish however, the preparation can be tedious if not frustrating to the casual outdoorsman but the reward is worth it if done right. Bleeding and ice should always be present in any preparation for almost any game. When steps are not taken to ensure that the animals’ natural oils and fats are rendered you hear words like “gamey” or “fishy”. With a strong fish like bluefish you need to be sure to cut away all the dark parts of the fish including that dark layer just between the meat and the skin. The next step is to use a marinade to either draw out the fishy taste like tomato sauce or one that will neutralize it like buttermilk (tomato and olive oil for grilling, buttermilk for frying) I like to let mine marinate for four to five hours.
For many people, this isn’t ideal but I remind you that some of the greatest dishes that humanity has to offer are from that rather less then choice cuts, poor ingredients that required skill in its preparation and cooking. Lobster was once considered peasant food till someone discovered the suckers are pretty tasty with a bowl of melted butter. I encourage all anglers next time those blue fish descend upon your favorite fishing spot, instead of screaming at the water and calling it a day, throw on that favorite spoon and enjoy the fight and the harvest.
About the Author
Austin Davis is an outdoor enthusiast, writer, artist, and outdoor cuisine lover. Exploring the outdoors for new flavors as well as adventures. Growing up fishing the shores of North Florida, learning the value of conservation so that other anglers could enjoy the bounty of the saltwater as much as he has.
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