Recently I had a call from a reader who was complaining about the many breakoffs he endured while blue fishing in the surf.
As you may know, bluefish have a mouthful of small, but sharp teeth. Those teeth are so efficient the blues are called “choppers” for the way they grind up baitfish. No doubt they are apex predators and vicious. Mostly hunting in packs that can range from a few to thousands.
When I first arrived in Florida in the '60s, I stopped at the Panama City pier. Fresh out of Louisiana, I had never seen a blue fish, but I was impressed when a fellow reeled up a nice one. When I admired it, he gave it to me and as I left I lipped it by putting my fingers through its mouth as you might a largemouth bass. Within a few steps, the fish clamped down and the blood flew. That was my unfortunate introduction to bluefish.
A bit later I was driving south on A1A at Sebastian Inlet when I saw at least 50 anglers on the beach standing almost shoulder to shoulder. Each one had a five-gallon bucket of fish. Welcome to the annual bluefish run. After that, I would spend a lot of time fishing the surf at Ormond Beach as the water came alive with them.
The bluefish would average around 14 inches, but, on occasion, you could catch a real bruiser. Up at Matanzas Inlet I caught a six-pound one from the bridge, and at Sebastian Inlet, I landed an eight-pounder from my boat.
Back then, I would give half of my catch to a fellow in Deland who would smoke them. Later, I would invest in my own smoker and I still use it 'til this day. Smoked bluefish and a cold beer are always a hit and the smoked fish dip they yield is a thing of beauty.
Now to address the fellow’s problems about line breakage.
If you are in an area where there are bluefish, you must have a leader. Steel is preferred, but I like to use 30-pound test mono. Bait them with most anything for they are indiscriminate feeders. Mullet or cut bait is best, but they will hit shrimp, squid, ballyhoo and the like.
Once I caught 25 on an old beer can opener. Three friends and I were fishing two miles out in the Atlantic Ocean in my 19-foot Starcraft when we came upon a huge school of bluefish feeding on a half acre of minnows. We were casting spoons until we lost them all. The only thing I had left that was shiny was the beer opener, so I wired a treble hook in one end and went to work. We caught more than 200 that day.
At times I have caught them off the sand with a diving plug. Usually when that happens, you can see the blues in the breaking waves.
From a pier, the best artificial is a Sea-hawk type lure. That heavy little pencil-shaped bait was invented right here in Daytona Beach and is an old favorite.
Aside from the surf, you can catch them in the rivers in certain spots. The channel between the island and the causeway on the northwest end of the big Dunlawton Bridge is a good spot and can be fished day or night.
Remember, the limit is 10 fish per day and the minimum length is 12 inches measured from the nose to the tail fork. Bluefish are such willing participants you might want to get the kids out after them. If you find feeding bluefish, you can’t help but catch them. Just be sure not to put your fingers in their mouths.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.