Species contact: Mike Bednarski
Scientific name: Pomatomus saltatrix
Common names: bluefish, tailor, snapper elves
Size: Up to 42 inches, typically 20-25 inches long
Color: Blue to blue-green dorsally, fading on side to silver or white on the belly.
Body: Bluefish have a stout body with a deep head and a moderately pointed nose. The mouth is law with a projecting lower jaw. The first dorsal fin starts in the middle of the back and is much smaller than the prominent second dorsal fin. The tail is forked, but not deeply like its relatives, the pompanos. They have a mouthful of sharp teeth and aren’t afraid to use them.
While bluefish are the only member of their family, they closely resemble members (like the greater amberjack) of the pompano family in appearance.
Prey: When young, they eat plankton at the surface, as they age, they will attack just about any kind of baitfish out there.
Predators: When young, they are preyed upon by larger fish such as striped bass, larger bluefish, and summer flounder. As adults, they are preyed upon by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, dolphins, and porpoises.
Depending on size and age, female bluefish can lay anywhere from 400,000 to over 2 million eggs. They spawn multiples times in the spring and summer. The eggs are buoyant and drift on currents. They hatch after roughly 48 hours. The fish are roughly 0.08 inches when they are hatched and will start to look like adult bluefish around half an inch in length. They are a schooling fish and voracious, eating just about anything they can.
Pelagic as well as inshore, staying mainly within the water column. Can be seen blitzing on the surface when attaching bait balls.
Bluefish cover a wide range but with irregular coverage in tropical to temperate waters. They are found throughout most of the Atlantic Ocean with Nova Scotia as their most northern border on the western coast of the Atlantic. They are found within the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The Canary Islands are the most northern border on the eastern coast of the Atlantic and they are also found within the Mediterranean Sea. They are also found throughout the south Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and a portion of the Southwest Pacific Ocean, mainly around Australia and New Zealand.
Gillnets are the most commonly used gear for catching bluefish in the commercial fishery. Bluefish are also caught by hook and line gear and trawls in the commercial fishery.
Most anglers catch bluefish near inlets, shoals, and rips where large schools often gather for feeding. If top fishing for bluefish, looking for water boiling or fish blitzes are the best indication that bluefish are around – although these can sometimes be caused by other species. These fish are aggressive and can bite through weak line. Line of at least 40 pound test or braid should be used. For larger fish, a wire leader is recommended.
Bluefish meat is light gray blue or brown when raw. There are dark sections of meat that are muddy brown red in color. These contain more oil for a potent flavor. Many anglers cut this area of the meat out before storing or cooking. Most bluefish is consumed smoked or after it is freshly caught – which cuts the potency of the fish. Some anglers soak the fish in milk for at least a few hours to also cut the oily, potent taste, before cooking.