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Bluefish Missing In Action

By Kastking | 22 January 2018 | 0 Comments

Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) have different names depending on the size , juveniles are snapper blues, cocktail blues run to about 22 inches, then to chopper blues, and the biggest bluefish are referred to as gator blues. Australians call bluefish tailor blues, while on the east coast of South Africa blues are called shad and elf on the west coast.


You can scoff all you like at bluefish. They generally have a bad reputation among most striper anglers. There was a point that I really disliked their presence when I was targeting stripers.  When they are present they typically will get in the way of an intended target. Inshore they will ambush your presentations meant for striped bass or weakfish. They are a bottom fisherman’s worst nightmare completely wrecking a deep water rig. I started on bluefish, and I suspect most anglers spent a good amount of their early angling career targeting them in one way or another.


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Even moderate size bluefish offer anglers a terrific fight. On lighter tackle fishing for bluefish can be a challenge. (photo credite Elias Vaisberg).

I remember wading along the shorelines of Jamaica Bay’s marshes casting poppers and soft plastics around sunset all summer long to bluefish slashing through schools of peanut bunker, mullet, and adult bunker. Heart pounding and consistent fishing action for July, August, and September; bluefish were the real drag testing monsters. It seems like they are a distant memory now. Large bluefish have totally vanished in the summer. For years I haven’t seen them inside after their spring run. The run of blues on the ocean side is also really limited, maybe a week maximum in late October or early November. We still have some cocktail bluefish ranging in the 18”-22” range, but none larger. Now that the big bluefish presence is limited to such a small time frame I am starting to appreciate them much more. Their run is down to two or three weeks inshore a year. When I just started fishing, big bluefish would be an available target for almost four months! What happened here? What does it mean to most fishermen?


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When fishing for blues a heavy leader and a lip grip are a must. You can easily lose a finger to a voracious bluefish. (photo credit Elias Vaisberg)

Imagine you are a brand new saltwater angler. Ten years ago you would be able to sharpen your skills every afternoon during the summer chasing blues that were attacking peanut bunker up and down almost any bay or estuary. This is how I got hooked on fishing. The bluefish were responsive to most offerings, provided amazing top water strikes and required a good amount of skill to land. They were perfect for a new angler with fish ranging from 2 lbs. to 15 lbs. Find a body of water with bait; hit the back bays at any sunrise or sunset and you could guarantee some sort of action. Some tides produced better than others, but most tides would produce a few bluefish strikes in general. Unfortunately this seems to be a thing of the past lately and the run of bluefish is only a spring thing. I find myself telling new anglers that want convenient fishing opportunities in the month of June that those poppers won’t be much use until October when striped bass begin their fall migration. Why are the bluefish no longer visiting the bays all summer and fall? Bait is available in large numbers all season lately.  It seems like the offshore body of bluefish seems to be healthy all summer. It may have to do with their cycles as a species or perhaps another un-answered water quality issues we experience in the summer.


My best advice is to take advantage of the blues before they are gone in the spring. I count on the stripers with more confidence come October. I no longer catch blues and grimace like I did four or five years ago while looking for stripers. I welcome their run and ruthlessness slashing through bunker schools every morning that they are present during May because I might not see them until next year. Working poppers along marsh edges is still my favorite way to trigger a ten pound bluefish to explosively strike on top. It’s also the best way to get someone new into fishing from the shoreline or from a boat. The action is pounding and you don’t need to be fishing in the uncomfortable conditions that are more typical of striped bass fishing.


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Fishing for blues at sunrise or sunset offers great action for beginners and veterans. (photo credit Elias Vaisberg).


If I’m not feeding giant bluefish live bunker with a conventional setup I am generally working them into the kayak with light spinning gear and top water poppers. My favorite popper is the 6” or 7” Cotton Cordell. Due to the thrashing of this species I take a pair of split ring pliers and remove the front treble for my own safety. I do this whether fishing from the kayak or the surf. It makes unhooking the fish much easier.


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KastKing Orcas Spinning Reels with special aluminum alloy body, massive 30 lb. of stopping power from its carbon fiber drags, 12 + 1 stainless bearings, have the power to handle the biggest fish.

On the kayak I rig up a KastKing® Orcas 3000 with 30 lb. KastKing® braided line fromEposeidon. I use a 12” 50 lb. wire leader or 50 lb. fluorocarbon to tie to the popper directly. The smooth carbon fiber drag of the KastKing® Orcas reel lets you handle a teen size bluefishes explosive runs with ease. A light 9’ or 10’ surf pole from the shoreline is ideal, if on a boat I use a KastKing® Phantom kayak fishing rod rated MH 10 – 20 lb. line. I find the blues to be a blast on this type of tackle. Generally, I will be out at

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Patent-pending, KastKing Phantom Kayak Rod features.

sunrise and looking along marsh banks or near edges of bunker schools. From the shoreline covering a lot of ground on an outgoing tide inside Jamaica Bay is productive. Casting poppers and moving along until you locate bluefish is usually easy enough. On the kayak I will typically spook fish on the flats by pedaling along and they will give away their location to me that way. On occasion I will find them on top feeding with birds working on top as well, but I don’t rely on that type of action. Slow or fast retrieves with poppers will generally work effectively, just don’t over tighten your drag. They are extremely powerful and a ten pound plus blue deserves the same respect that a striper gets. The bluefish can be very reliable in early May and any tackle shop will clue you in when they start their run. Don’t wait too long though, because there might not be another shot at them for the season!


By — Elias Vaisberg


Elias Vaisberg is a highly experience kayak fisherman who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He logs countless hours targeting anything that swims in Jamaica Bay and New York Harbor. He fishes on a 2011 Hobie Outback and is sponsored by Eposeidon and Hobie. He qualified for the Hobie International Kayak Fishing Challenge in 2013 and 2014.




Eposeidon (www.eposeidon.com ) is an e-commerce company (Eposeidon Outdoor Adventure, Inc.) that brings a fresh, innovative approach to anglers by offering quality fishing tackle products at the best prices and no cost, or low cost shipping. Eposeidon’s goal is to exceed expectations through outstanding customer service and superior product value to their customers. Eposeidon is continually expanding its product lines, which include KastKing(r) fishing line, fishing reels, and fishing rods, MadBite fishing lures, Ecooda reels, and other fishing tackle products, to meet individual fishing equipment needs. Eposeidon is headquartered in Garden City, NY, USA and sells fishing tackle products globally. Eposeidon is the sole North American Distributor for Ecooda fishing reels.

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