Bluefish are highly migratory and found in tropic and temperate seas worldwide, except for eastern Pacific shores. In the western Atlantic Ocean they occupy waters from Argentina to the northernmost American coast. These highly regarded game fish are most popular from North Carolina to southern New England, though they are also caught as far north as Maine. They are certainly fond of Florida’s warm waters – including the Gulf of Mexico – migrating to these climes during the winter. Other popular areas in the Atlantic Ocean include the tranquil Caribbean and Bahamian waters, and regions as far south as Argentina. Bluefish are also no strangers to the warm waters around Africa, or the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
This fish gets its name from a sleek body colored blue or greenish blue on top with silvery sides. Dorsal and anal fins are almost the same size, and the tail is broad and forked. They have large mouths with prominent, extremely sharp teeth lining upper and lower jaws.
The lateral line is thin but distinct, and almost straight. The Bluefish visually resembles a pompano, but may be more closely related to the sea bass. They usually spawn offshore during early summer, giving birth to aggressive young who will grow rapidly among coastal estuaries before joining adults offshore during fall and winter.
Bluefish weigh over two pounds by their second year and continue to add about two pounds each year. This levels off to one and a half pounds per year after reaching an average weight of 10 or so pounds by their sixth year. Females and males generally grow equally in size, and any Blue over 20 pounds is considered a trophy.
The world record for Bluefish is a 31 pound, 12 ounce beast, caught off Langara Island, British Columbia. Bluefish follow and hunt schools of baitfish, generally in bays and sandy-bottomed near-shore waters, traveling in large schools composed of similarly sized fish. They typically migrate from the northeast Atlantic to Florida’s east coast in the winter, preferring to remain in water temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on water and air temperatures they may be found from just below the surface to as far down as the bottom. Juveniles grow large and strong on a diet of crustaceans, including various shrimp, along with various, small baitfish like the bay anchovy and Atlantic silver-side. Adults prefer larger baitfish, often zeroing in on one out of a school and then charging in to attack. They will successfully overtake larger prey by chopping and shredding with their teeth; nor are they above cannibalism.
Schooling Bluefish long ago gained a reputation as a bloodthirsty species: “likened to an animated chopping machine … they move about like a pack of hungry wolves, destroying everything in front of them.” Certainly, they are capable of cutting through lines and leaders, destroying lures with razor-sharp teeth, and taking furious pieces from fish already hooked. However exaggerated, such aggression can actually lead anglers to bounty by following slicks from their schooling attacks. This is indicative of the battle they give when hooked, sometimes skyrocketing out of the water before landing on and attacking a lure.