Bluefish are a very popular and abundant fish that can be caught all over the Jersey Shore. Wire leaders are a essential to successfully catching these fish, their razor sharp teeth are capable of cutting even 80lb Fluorocarbon leaders. Anglers use a variety of plugs, sand eel type jigs, squid or mackerel like lures when casting or trolling. Bunker, mackerel or eels are the preferred live baits. When these are not available, many types of cut bait also work.
Tips on Catching Bluefish
When and where:
In New Jersey, the bluefish show up in the spring around early May, and they stay all summer long and into October. Another good thing about bluefish is that you can often catch them during the day; even in the summer. However, early morning and at dusk are the best times to catch bluefish. They can be caught right off the coast and out in the water. Fishing for them can be easily be done from a boat or on shore. The bluefish bite is at its best at dawn or dusk and any other time when there are low light conditions. The bluefish are much more aggressive than most fish and can often be found blitzing bait even under the midday sun. When they are not blitzing bait, they school up in staging areas and can be easily convinced to bite. Bluefish can be found in any depth and in almost any location where there is bait in the vicinity. They will frequently shadow a school of bait for a period of time and then suddenly make their attack. The resulting commotion will get the attention of every seagull within sight or earshot. A good moving tide can certainly improve the bite, but it is not unusual to see the fish feed right through the slack or flood.
Watch the birds:
The birds are very helpful when bluefish fishing. The birds can either be high flying, bee lining, screaming, wet roosting, or dry roosting. The angler needs to understand the implications of each of these behaviors. High flying birds typically circle repeatedly above a rather large patch of water. This is a sign that baitfish are concentrated beneath the surface of the water and out of their reach. They can easily cover a large area from well above the surface and they are waiting for predators to drive the bait to the top. It is very import for the angler to not have tunnel vision when working an area. Many times the fisherman’s concentration is on a small patch of water that the fish recently occupied, when just over their shoulder a full scale blitz is going on. Watch for birds flying relatively low over the water in a straight line. Several birds all heading in the same direction are probably making a bee line towards some obvious surface activity. When there are lots of birds over relatively wide area, the best thing to do is to listen for their screams. When bait appears on the top, they cannot contain their excitement and immediately give away the location. Large numbers of birds sitting on the water in an area is a sign that some significant feeding activity recently took place. The bait has probably gone deep and may be directly beneath them. The bass and blues may be nearby and simply taking a breather. A big flock on the water bears watching for a least a few minutes. A large number of birds roosting on rocks or docks suggest that there is probably a very large bait source in the area, but nothing has happened for quite some time. This may be worth revisiting later in the tide.
Use light Fishing Equipment:
Light spinning or bait casting tackle will provide the most sport and enjoyment. A good 6’6’’ to 7’ medium weight, fast action is enough to handle nearly anything. Braided and gel spun lines are perfect for this type of fishing. The thin diameter and slippery surfaces allow for long casts even with some of the smallest lures. The lack of stretch transmits every twitch of the rod directly to the lure and the angler can create some very enticing retrieves. Most pros prefer 20lb test as it has enough strength to handle some of the biggest fish and larger plugs, yet a thin enough diameter so that there is adequate line capacity in most suitable reels. A top quality reel with a good drag is a must.
Using Big lures:
Matching the size of the small baits being pursued is very difficult and unnecessary. These fish are attacking out of impulse and are drawn by the noise and commotion. A noisy 5-7 inch surface plug is most effective. Smaller plugs limit casting distance and make much less commotion. The fish are not intimidated by the larger plug size. Even the smallest blues do not hesitate to attack a plug which is only half their size. All plugs should be tied to a 2-3ft length of 30-50lb Fluorocarbon leader attached to the main line a small Mustad Rolling Swivel. The leader will aid the angler when handling the fish at boat side. Never handle the braided line, the thin diameter and unyielding edge can easily cut you. Popping plugs such as surface cruisers and pencils are usually the most productive. However, these lures take a certain degree of skill and practice to achieve a good presentation. Sometimes it is better to work a flat and angling face popper with a perfect presentation, rather than a surface cruiser in a mediocre presentation. The advantage of the cruiser and pencils is that they have a lot of action with very little forward momentum. This means that the plug stays in front of fish for a longer period of time and really gives the fish a chance to hone in on it.
Like any fishing, this is one of the most important tips. When bluefish fishing the angler must resist the temptation to strike back at the fish until it is certain that it has the plug. Many times a fish will strike at a plug repeatedly and not get hooked. Simply maintain the same retrieve that got the fish’s interest in the first place, or stop the retrieve just for a moment to make the lure appear like a stunned or wounded baitfish. Start the retrieve again with just a slight twitch and the fish will usually strike again. If there are no takers during the course of a long retrieve, vary the speed to see if the fish are interested in a slightly different presentation. Slow retrieves are usually more effective as the fish have a much better chance to find the plug. Once the fish does have the plug, a short hook set is usually enough to ensure that it will make it to the side of your boat.
For more helpful Jersey Shore fishing tips as well as top of the line fishing bait and tackle, check out Fin-atics. Serving the Cape May County area, they offer quality equipment both in their Ocean City NJ store and online at good prices. Contact them at (609) 398-2248 or visit the website.