During these stressful times as we move ever so slowly toward some degree of reopening, fishing is one of the few outdoor activities that fit the bill, despite some local access restrictions. The recent arrival of blowfish in our waters makes them the ideal target for families that want to spend some quality time with the kids, and you don’t have to go far to do it. Many of the docks and piers that dot our South Shore and East End Bays, and North shore harbors are already hosting good numbers of northern puffers. They are easy to catch, perfect for kids, and are excellent on the dinner table.
Last season saw the greatest number of blowfish in our South Shore bays and North shore harbors in decades and the action inspired a lot of anglers, novices and experienced alike, to head to a nearby dock and take advantage of the fast action they are capable of providing. By the way, if you’re concerned about being poisoned by eating blowfish, forget it. Our northern puffers are not toxic but some varieties of puffers not native to our waters certainly are. Instead, our blowfish are often referred to as “chicken of the sea” and are delicious.
They happen to be one of the easiest fish to catch and tackle requirements are about as simple as can be. Ideally, a light action spinning rod will provide the most fun but any rod will do. Long shank snapper hooks are ideal as they make removing them from the buck-toothed mouth of a puffer much easier. An ounce of lead is all that is usually needed around most docks to get your baited hook down near the bottom. Clams and squid are the preferred baits but blowfish are not fussy. They will just as readily eat pieces of chicken, hot dogs and salami. Yes, we used to catch them on all of these “baits” as kids growing up on the shores of Great South Bay.
If you want to be assured of some fast action, dropping a chum pot or chum bag full of clam or bunker chum will have the puffers schooling up at your feet. Likewise, if you choose to spend some family time on your boat, you can often anchor up a stone’s throw from the dock, drop a chum pot over the side and enjoy some fast-paced action. You might even be visited by an occasional fluke, kingfish or porgy, depending on the area you are fishing.
Regrettably, there are no restrictions on the recreational or commercial harvesting of blowfish in New York. Not sure what our Department of Conservation is waiting for since it has become common to see people with buckets filled with tiny blowfish on some docks and potting for them goes unrestricted. Blowfish have been showing signs of making a comeback after a decades long absence for the past seven or eight years. Following their initial spring showing they were quickly swallowed up in commercial pots. It wasn’t until last season that they returned in abundance and provided excellent fishing through much of the summer. Let’s hope they stick around, especially since they are the perfect species for introducing youngsters to fishing. Take only what you can eat and release the little guys.