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Blowfish have a penchant for hanging around local docks and piers, they are easy to catch and are excellent on the dinner table.

By Fred Golofaro  |  May 11, 2020
Long shank snapper hooks will make unhooking a blowfish a whole lot easier.

During these stressful times when people are being told to stay home or stay local, and isolate with family members within your home, fishing is one of the few outdoor activities that fit the bill. The recent arrival of blowfish in our waters makes them the perfect target for families that want to spend some quality time with the kids, and you don’t have to go far to do it. Blowfish have a penchant for hanging around local docks and piers, they are easy to catch 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 that northern puffers provide. 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. We even caught them by wrapping pieces of tin foil around the shank of the hook. One day my brother and I caught 365 of them. I remember the number because my father, uncle and grandfather taught us the valuable lesson of cleaning what you keep. After that day, we never kept more than a couple dozen blowfish and it was our first introduction to the catch and release ethic.

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 really isolate with your family in 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.