I answer fishing questions for new arrivals on a weekly basis.
Most are repetitive, but I don’t mind. When I began this column over 11 years ago, it was my intention to try and help folks catch more fish. Often I am told the pilgrims aren’t catching much of anything. Well, if that is true of you, your time has come.
The swarming hoards of bluefish are now in the surf and the rivers and will hit most anything. To begin with, bluefish are seldom blue, but instead are olive, shading to white below. They have a forked tail and a mouth full of nasty teeth.
If getting accustomed to Florida fishing has you befuddled, you are part of a very large group. In 1969, not long after I first arrived here, I was walking on the Sunglow Pier when a kindly gentleman asked if I wanted the nice bluefish he had just reeled up. I did and when I lipped it the way you might a largemouth bass the blue chomped down on my finger. I gave it a sling and the blood flew. The wound was nearly large enough for stitches. That was my first experience with bluefish and a valuable lesson learned.
I found out bluefish migrate along our coast each spring and fall in big numbers while hunting in packs not unlike wolves. Over the years, I have caught them by the thousands and have loved every minute of it. Not many fish are as easy to catch as the chopper blues. They will bite shrimp (alive or dead), fish, shellfish or most any type of lure.
If you want to catch them on a pier or in the surf, you can’t do better than a Seahawk type lure. That heavy little pencil shaped bait is easy to cast great distances and is fairly inexpensive. There are many varieties of that clothespin type lure, but it was actually invented right here.
Back in the 1940s, lure maker Richard Porter, who was a regular on the Daytona Pier, began to experiment with a weighted lure that would stay down on the retrieve from such a high platform. A lead-filled chrome tube did the job and a new bait was born. Soon the other pier and surf fishermen wanted one and he was in business. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess the bluefish had a lot to do with that invention.
At this time of year, watch the waves, birds and the dolphins to find the blues. When the water is clear, you can see them in each breaking wave. At times they can be very thick in numbers.
While bluefish are not the most delicious fish in the ocean, they are edible. Keep them fresh and, if at all possible, eat them the same day they are caught. They are easy to filet and, when you are cleaning them, take a few seconds to cut out the dark streak. I like to give mine a buttermilk bath before frying them in crushed corn flakes that may have overstayed their welcome. Serve them up with fresh prepared horseradish and you will have some pretty tasty eats.
Bluefish make the best smoked fish around and each spring they are highly prized for that. Years ago, my cousin Randy and I would catch 50 or 60 in the surf and give a fellow half to prepare them for us. It didn’t take too long for us to invest in our own smoker. Now, each spring I am on the beach to gather some to smoke.
Blues are a lot of fun to catch, too, but be sure and rig with a steel leader. They put up a great fight considering ours average around two pounds. I once caught an 8-pounder in Sebastian Inlet and a 6-pounder in Matanzas Inlet, but those are exceptional. This spring don’t miss the action. Get blue fishing!
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.