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Monday, January 05, 2009

Get the Fishing Blues!

One of the most common inshore fish on the East Coast is the bluefish. Happiest and most active when the water temperature is in the sixties, they also remain quite active in water temperatures from fifty to the upper seventies.

They feed from miles offshore to right up on the beaches and jetties making the bluefish easily accessible to surf and boating anglers alike. These toothy predators have been credited with saving an otherwise slow day or being a pest, but when their tenacious fighting is considered it's difficult to understand how anyone can consider them a pest. Any fish that bends your rod and puts up a sporty battle is anything but a pest.

Bluefish are often caught incidental to targeting other predatory game fish and this is how they earned the "pest" reputation. Their toothy mouths account for many lost lures and flies, but when rigged correctly lures and flies can be saved and a lot of fun can be had. Line shyness is not one of the bluefish's attributes, so adding a wire bite guard or leader ahead of your fly or lure is the first line of defense in saving tackle.

Wire in the 30 lb. test range works well. The breaking strength isn't as important as the diameter in keeping the blues from biting through. I like to use knottable wire for it's simplicity. A four to six inch piece can be connected to your leader with a simple Albright knot or tied to a swivel with a standard clinch knot. The lure or fly can then be tied to the wire with a clinch knot. Another type bite guard can be tied with monofiliment or fluorocarbon leader material.

Using mono or fluorocarbon is a good idea when targeting other species where leader visibility, or rather lack of, is important, but there are a lot bluefish around too. I'll also use mono or fluorocarbon when I'm targeting blues and feel there's a good chance there are other species around. When using these lines for a bite guard I use nothing lighter than 50 lb. test material and often go to 80 lb test.

Bluefish eat most everything so high priced lures and fancy flies aren't needed. With lures it's best to stay away from treble hooks. Buy lures with single hooks or replace the trebles on the ones you already have with singles. Metals are the most durable and bluefish generally eat them with abandon. Use a size that closely matches the length and profile of the predominant bait fish. Surface plugs add a whole new level of excitement as you get to see the bluefish recklessly attack your lure. Blues are tough on plugs, so you will want to take that into account before you throw a high priced surface lure in the frenzy.

Flies for blues need similar considerations as lures. Keep them simple and retrieve them fast. You can't out strip a bluefish. Poppers are an absolute blast and if you go that route keep in mind that you will destroy a few; a small price to pay for the excitement surface feeding blues can provide. Not known for their selectivity like stripers or albacore, bluefish flies can be bright and flashy to help them get noticed. Epoxy flies like the Popovics types are both durable and effective as are epoxy headed Clousers.

Bluefish are a bit crazy and removing a hook from a strong, thrashing fish that's also trying to bite you is not for the faint of heart. For safety, use some type of lip holding device. I prefer a Boga Grip, but there are other less expensive grips on the market that will save your fingers. After you have the fish securely held use a pliers or a hook remover tool to remove the hook.

Once you hook into a 15 lb or bigger blue, the fish won't be the only one hooked!

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