Leave the powder puff gear at home, it’s time to have an actual battle on your hands this spring.
It’s no secret that NJ/NY area bays got blindsided by bluefish bombing raids the past few years; their entry into New England waters on the other hand – when and where – can often become as much of a mystery as anything else related to the bluefish stock.
Yet when we are graced with the arrival of spring bluefish, these haven’t always been the usual spring choppers of 3 to 5 pounds in recent years, but often true gorillas of 15 to 24 pounds that absolutely destroyed tackle and sent anglers home with plenty of broken gear and sore arms. So, will the wolfpacks show up again this year? Who knows, but you’d better be prepared.
Canal and river systems from Montauk, NY to Indian River Inlet, DE may have blues coursing through on the incoming tides sticking around then flowing outward during outgoing tides. Marauding packs of fish follow the tidewaters, and if you play your cards right, you can leap frog and follow the packs from the way backwaters to the inlet and vice versa.
Up in New England, where the spring runs of bluefish have been spotty at best in recent years, expect to find fish hot on the tails of the squid boats if they make an appearance this year. The bite moves in from the waters off Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, past the south Cape beaches, through Buzzards Bay and then on to the south through Block Island Sound before the main body of fish seemingly vanishes into thin air.
Boaters can expect to run a cast and blast game, searching out the menacing schools popping up and down as they stormtroop through the bay. Telltale signs of crashing whitewater betray bluefish schools. Morning and evening hours seem to be producing best, from 7 a.m. to about 10 a.m. then again at 5 p.m. to about 8 p.m., but if you have a day to spend in the backwaters, simply cruise around and keep a keen eye for bird-play or whitewater. When chasing down bluefish schools, you’ll need a rod that has some muscle, somewhere in between from a light set up and heavy set up, enough of a happy medium to make the fight about three to five minutes long to battle the fish to boatside, but not underwhelm it and burn the fish out. I usually use a 7-foot PENN Torque TT2050S70 rod rated for 20- to 50-pound, matched with a PENN Slammer 760 reel. Spool with 50-pound Power Pro, then create your leader with heavier duty, 24-inch piece of 60-pound test Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon leader and a 100-pound Tactical Anglers clip tied onto via Palomar knot.
Stow a small, six-pack Canyon shoulder bag and fill it with an assortment of lures that are built to take a beating. Poppers can run the gamut of types, but you really need a hardcore model able to withstand a bluefish bashing, such as A Band of Anglers Flying Popper or Tactical Anglers 2- to 3-ounce Bomb Popper. Metals can withstand the pain blues dish out. Ava jigs from 007 to A27 size, Deadly Dicks, Crippled Herrings and AOK T-Hex can take the punishment. Cast out, let them sink with a four count, then rip them through the water.
Take all your old, decrepit, beat up plugs hanging on the wall or that you buy cheap at flea markets and put single hooks on them. Plugs will get hit many times when metals and poppers refuse to see any action. On all lures, I recommend removing treble hooks and replacing them with size 3/0 siwash hooks, and you only really need them on the back end of the popper as bluefish tend to hit the tail to disable any bait in effort to chop the motor off the fish. One treble hook is too many when bluefishing as they will usually result in a hook in the hand or an incorrigible tangle in the net as bluefish flop in frantic fashion.