Mention bluefish to an angler in the northeast and many will flash an awful stare at you.
Here, most people hate them. They are definitely the Rodney Dangerfield of fish. They just don't get any respect.
Bluefish or blues are like ravenous dogs without a home. Nomads, chasing everything they can get in their mouth, including each other. If it's in sight or smell of their beady little yellow eyes, they are coming. I have seen bluefish appear out of nowhere with just a few drops of blood in the water. Usually, when one appears, the pack is not far behind.
Bluefish average 6-12 pounds with plenty hitting the 15-pound mark, making a formidable opponent. Their forked tail is designed for speed, and their teeth are designed for slicing and dicing.
They will hit just about any bait or lure, especially topwater lures.
For fly fishing guides, bluefish are a dream. They fight, they pull and they leap out of the water several times. The only drawback is that they just chew the crap out of your flies.
Too many times, I have seen a pack of blues coming through a chum slick when the goal is to catch tuna or striped bass. They destroy leaders, hooks, baits and lures. That is probably why so many dislike the bluefish.
But, it's mid-October and inshore anglers south of Long Island are in between runs of striped bass. The sea bass season is closed prematurely, fluke season is closed and for some, the tuna are too far offshore.
Sure, some stripers are around, but the major run is still to the north. That really just leaves us with bluefish. Bluefish receive little press anymore but because they offer tons of action and put bends in the rod, I figured I'd give them just a little respect.
In reality, blues are perfect and willing combatants for the angler with time constraints or for the small boat angler. The best part is that right now, monster bluefish over 12 pounds are everywhere.
The East River in Manhattan, the Hudson River, Raritan Bay, the entire New Jersey Coast and down into Virginia is now producing excellent frenzies of bluefish. Find a school of bait and get ready for war.
The inshore chew is on because peanut bunkers as well as adult bunker (menhaden) are still holding in larger bays and rivers as water temperatures are quite warm. Massive schools of bluefish smell the bait and have entered these bays and rivers.
In addition, the sand eel population along the coast is incredible. Bluefish not entering the bays and rivers are simply gorging themselves into oblivion. This will occur into December when water temperatures hit 46-48 degrees. Yes, these feisty yellow eyed demons are here to stay, but it's all good.
Find bait and you will find bluefish. It is that simple. Search the skies and your radar for flocks of seagulls and beneath you will find schools of frenzied bluefish and sometimes bass eating underneath.
As the striped bass run migrates south during the upcoming weeks, expect all chaos to unload as bluefish and stripers will feed on these bait balls together.
From the sky, seagulls and gannets dive bomb the melee happening below the water, picking up scraps and whole baitfish if they can. It's literally a free for all.
Obviously, the best lures resemble sand eels or peanut bunker. Ava Jigs are the mainstay here in the northeast as this diamond type jig resembles a sand eel. However, butterfly jigs, sassy shads and diving lures such as Sebile's Magic Swimmer will all take fish. Anything will take fish if it's put in the right place.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, two reasons.
One, the run is on; especially here in the New Jersey and Long Island area.
Two, no one is fishing. You and your friends can literally go out and catch 50-60 big bluefish today with less than a dozen boats in sight. That is just unheard of here.
One of these days, our beloved striped bass will appear and when they do, don't you want to be one of the first ones on them?
Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).