Records | Description | Similar Species | Predators/Prey | Life History | Habitat | Geographic Distribution | Recreational Fishing | Commercial Fishing | Management | Status | Angling Tips | Food Quality

bluefish photo

Species contact: Mike Bednarski

Scientific name: Pomatomus saltatrix
Common names: bluefish, tailor, snapper elves

 

Records

Massachusetts State Record: 27 pounds, 4 ounces. Caught at Graves Light.
IGFA International All-Tackle World Record: 31 pounds, 12 ounces. Caught off Hatteras, North Carolina.

 

Description

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.

bluefish drawing

 

Similar Species

Pompanos are in the same family, however Amber jack of southeastern United States are the most similar in appearance.

 

Predators/Prey

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.

 

Life History

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.

 

Habitat

Pelagic as well as inshore, staying mainly within the water column. Can be seen blitzing on the surface when attaching bait balls.

 

Geographic Distribution

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.

bluefish map

 

Recreational Fishing

Wire trolling, casting lures, bait fishing

 

Commercial Fishing

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.

 

bluefish trolling

Management

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission develop regulations which NOAA Fisheries and the states then implement.

 

Status

IUCN Red List: Not evaluated
FishWatch: Not overfished

 

Angling Tips

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.

 

Food Quality

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.