Catching Bluefish in Maine
Catching Bluefish in Maine
The Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) Is a fierce fighting fish that, when feeding is always hungry. They compete with adult Striped Bass and Mackerel so when the blues are in, the other fish go into hiding. The first sign in Maine that the blues are in, is when you see a mackerel leap out of the water being chased and fast by a blue. Obviously there are other ways of telling the blues are in. Usually my personal first sign is while fishing for stripers, I start losing lures and snapping off lines.
This is a sign that it’s time to put on a good steel leader and put some 2x or 3x strong hooks on everything. Blues can cover 10 or 20 miles in no time flat while hunting and exploring bays. They school in like sizes and feed together. For the recreational fisherman few, if any fish can match the blue pound for pound in a fight. When you hook a fish that can hit 20 pounds after a dozen years…. That’s a lot of fight!
When fishing blues a word of caution should be heeded. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and you should never try to lip one of these fish. They have rows of cutting teeth. They an be picked up by the gill, or netted. Because of their fork tail, with some practice, once up to the boat they can safely be grabbed just ahead of the tail and pulled in backwards.
So where is all this heading? I have put together this article to share my personal preferred method for fishing bluefish here in Maine and the gear I use. So enough technical chat about blues and lets get on with it.
I usually fish, bluefish, stripers, and mackerel from my little 14 foot Starcraft aluminum boat. A good product of the 70’s. The engine has been upgraded to a 30 hp mariner and all the seats removed and replaced with some decking and a holding tank / storage bin. The point is, any relatively reliable boat will do that you would fish the inlets and anything within view of the shoreline. I prefer the boat to surf casting simply for the sake of mobility and the opportunity to explore more.
The tackle box is unsually lined with steel leaders, leader material with crimping collars and some barrel swivels. Rattlin’ Chug bugs by storm are terrific bluefish bait.
I fish the 3 inch blue/silver with the hooks replaced with saltwater 3x strong more than any other bait. Next I fish my own plugs. When I opened my tackleshop I had images of everyone using my plugs, now I keep them for myself, friends and family and make them at my leisure. Essentially a hard wood gurgling popper with sturdy hooks. Personally I have found the blues to prefer baits in the 3” range. Larger baits seem to intimidate the average fish and make too much splash. Thirdly the next best method is something a kin to the old timers Pike method of skipping salt pork. Hook on a good hunk of fish (Or Pork) cast out and keep it plugging across the surface. Bluefish like noise. Noise to them means feeding shad or baitfish, and they want it. Whatever you bring… bring extras. Blues are hard on tackle.
As far as rod and reel goes I truly enjoy battling these monsters with medium or medium/light gear. The usual suggested line weight is at least 20lb test, a good suggestion for general blue fishing. To date my personal best is a 33 inch blue monster on 12lb test. This year I will be tackling them with flies. I keep a Mitchell open faced reel with Berkley Trilene Ultra smooth casting on a 6’ medium weight rod for standard fishing. The braided line and 20lb mono comes out eventually.
I start by pulling my baits through tuna fish oil, casting out and “Walking the Dog”. This is a technique where the popper when twitched shakes from side to side. Getting the popper to “Blurp” without a big splash also seems to work well. On windy days you may find the need to switch to noisy underwater crank baits to keep the blues coming. It’s true that once feeding and you are in a school you could throw poo on a hook and catch a bluefish. But it often takes more patience and presentation to get the attention of one or more of the school and get them hitting.
Drag, drag, drag. Make sure your drag is set appropriately. These fish will pull your drag. If they don’t they will straighten hooks or simply rip the hook out. When on a rod, these fish need to be fought in with some common sense. Horsing and forcing them in often loses the fish.
Some days you will need to cover many inlets and bays to find your school, but its always worth while when you hit.
Lastly, Bluefish always seem smart, whether they are or not is always up for debate. It always seems like blues are great at finding your motor, anchor line or some other structure to wrap around and pull free. Keeping an eye on your fish and where its heading is essential to your success. Also keep in mind that Blues are hard core fighters. They will often go for one or more last super hard runs when they get up to the boat. Just hang on and ease them back in.
Good luck, tight lines, practice catch and release and take a kid fishing.