Surf: Ocean Blues - The Fisherman

Surf: Ocean Blues

Spring blues on the ocean beaches can provide some amazing and fun action for surfcasters.

Surfcasters should not neglect these pit bulls of the open surf!

Every spring the mass migration of bluefish moves up the eastern seaboard and leaves a path of pure carnage in its wake.  Personally, I can’t wait until they reach my home beaches so I can to do battle with these powerful marauders! Meeting up with them in the open surf adds an even more exciting element to the experience, way before they enter the bays and estuaries to terrorize anything that swims by.

Last year, the spring run was excellent. It’s exhilarating to watch your lure get hammered in a wave and then battle the brute to the shoreline. These early season bluefish are lean and hungry as they chop a path to their destination. Drop a lure or bait in front of them and get ready for a battle!

Start keeping a close watch along the beaches for signs of life in April and putting in your time could put you in the thick of things at any given moment. The southernmost states will see them first, and if you hear they are south of you, make sure you’re ready for them, because they can move in quick and be on your beach in a blink of an eye. Sandy and rocky beaches up and down the coast have been experiencing top notch action over the last few years in the spring, so you want to be prepared for them before they arrive.

Having strong reels matched to medium-action rods in the 9- to 11-foot range that can heave large plugs and tins are a good choice because surf conditions are not always ideal, and you don’t want to be under-gunned if the school is a good distance off the beach. There are times when the fish will push the bait in close and lighter tackle can be utilized, so if you’re driving the beach, a lighter outfit can be kept in the truck for some extra thrills.

Line should be no less than 30-pound braid with leaders up to 60-pound test. Remember these blues can be quite large, and you will be fighting them in the surf. You will want your tackle to be able to handle any situation, such as large, receding waves and rocky shores depending on where and when you’re fishing.

Having an assortment of lures such as pencil and standard poppers, bottle plugs, bucktails and tins like the Hopkins or Kastmasters will definitely put you in the action. Don’t forget a couple of ‘tin and tubes’ also. Big spook plugs are another great choice, and will draw vicious strikes. You want to mimic the varied forage that the fish are zeroing in on… bunker, squid, sand eels and herring are just some of the options on the menu for these springtime eating machines.

I would suggest not to tote along your prized and expensive plugs to this rodeo.  These gorillas will decimate your tackle and leave you wishing that you’d left your $40 dollar lures tucked in beds at home. I bring plugs that I can tolerate getting beat up or cut off. I also rig them with one set of rear trebles, or even better, a single hook on the rear.  You do not need (or want) two sets of trebles when dealing with these brutes. Also, crush all barbs; it’s better for the fish and safer for you, trust me on this.  Sometimes the fishing is so fast that the game is to try and get the lure back in without hooking up!

Other gear you should carry is a pair of fish grippers and pliers for safe handling. You do not want to ruin your day by having a gator take a bite out of you…and they will if given a chance!

I prefer to fish the higher stages of the tides and the drop, especially if the beach has a lot of offshore bars. The blues will drive bait in and stay around in the deeper troughs, but steep beaches with deep water at low tide can give you a few good innings also. The daylight action this time of year can be great, and the visuals are exciting to witness. Plugs getting knocked out of the water and dodging multiple strikes as the fish swings, misses and attacks again, these are heart pounding moments!  Another thing to keep in mind is that just because there are no signs of feeding fish, don’t make the mistake of not making casts. They can be silently cruising along in the surf undetected, just as they do sometimes when they enter the back bays.

The bluefish is a great and powerful gamefish, and deserves to be treated as such. They can be counted on to bring a lot of fun for the surfcaster.  Proper handling and release practices should be paramount if we want them to return in good numbers year after year. Keeping a few for the table is also advised, when bled and iced, they can be quite good. The larger ones can be smoked, just make sure to remove the dark meat for better taste. Catch the migration along the ocean beaches and do battle with these pit bulls of the surf scene!



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