Capt. Brian Horsley
Bluefish are good eating, if handled properly
Bluefish are very popular with inshore sportsman. They can be caught on piers, surf, sound and ocean. Bluefish are voracious feeders and will eat almost any lure or bait when they are on a rampage. Bluefish are school fish, so when you find one you can find a lot.
They have extremely sharp teeth for chopping up baitfish, so be careful when handling and unhooking them. They are said to be able to see outside of the water, so don’t give them a chance to chop a finger or hand.
Most of the bluefish caught in the surf in the summer are caught on bait — fresh mullet, or menhaden are the two top choices of bluefish natural bait. The cut pieces of bait are fished on either one or two hooked bottom rigs with a sinker.
Check your local tackle shop for detailed information on rigs, bait, and where to fish.
Pier fishing for bluefish in mostly done with lures like spoons and jerk jiggers, but they can also be caught with bait.
In the Sounds, bluefish are often caught while fishing for speckled trout or puppy drum. They will quickly demolish the soft plastic baits used for speckled trout, so if they continue to eat your plastic baits, it might be time to try small bucktail jigs and spoons.
Bluefish will move off the shallow flats into the sloughs (deeper channels) during ebb tide (low tide), and they will cruise the edges looking for baitfish that have also left the flats for deeper water.
Bluefish will congregate around Inlets particularly around ebb tide to take advantage food coming out of the inlet. During ebb tide, the Sound water heads to sea, bringing along with it, baitfish that have been caught in the current. In the ocean, for the most, part bluefish are caught trolling spoons like Clark Spoons. If the bluefish push the bait to the top, they can be caught casting lures on light rods. Speck Rigs are small bucktail jigs that are rigged as a double rig. This helps cast the lighter jigs and gives you a chance to hook two at a time. This is a great way to catch these hard fighting fish.
Bluefish make excellent table fare, if handled properly. Plenty of ice when they are landed and cleaned that day are good steps. The secret to eating bluefish is freshness. It is an oily fish, so they do not keep long, best eaten within two days of capture.
It is a favorite fish among the locals. The best eating size is ½-to -pound fish, but larger fish are great to smoke and make an awesome fish dip.
Eating smaller blues is very simple: First, scale the fish then filet and remove the belly bones.
Some people prefer their fish skinned, and if you do skin the fish, you can remove the dark meat that is in the middle filet. To most old-timers, bluefish is best served fried, but it can be broiled or grilled. Sadly, you seldom see bluefish in restaurants in Dare County, but it is understandable due to how perishable they are.
Tackle shops and marinas are super resources for information. They have all the current scoop and are more than happy to help you get rigged up or plan a charter fishing trip.
Get outside and enjoy the fishing, and remember that the supply is not endless — so only harvest what you need.
Remember: When at the market or when dining out, ask for fresh local North Carolina seafood.
Pier Gear Basics
A great to spend some time fishing is on a fishing pier. It can be as easy or a complicated as you want it to be. Let’s look at the basics and the gear needed to have a fun outing on the pier.
One of the advantage for summer pier fishing is you do not need a long surf fishing combo. A medium action rod from 6.5 to 7.5 feet is perfect. Team this rod with a matching sized reel spooled up with line for a 12- to 16-pound test. This combination will let you fish either bottom rigs for bottom fish or throw lures on the end of the pier for bluefish.
Here are some basic rigs that will let you have hours of fun. The Top and Bottom rig is the standard rig for fishing on bottom for spot, croaker, sea mullet, bluefish and other fish that feed near the bottom.
With your medium action rod, you can attach a 1- to 3-ounce pyramid sinker. Pyramid sinkers are preferred because the shape will keep your rig from drifting around too much. It also allows you to rep your line tight, so you can feel the bite when it comes. Most anglers bait the two-hook rig with either shrimp, bloodworms or cut mullet. Check with the people who work behind the counter on what bait is working best.
Basic lures for bluefish and Spanish are jerk jiggers, and small double bucktail rigs, which can be found in every tackle shop and pier house on the Outer Banks. At times, colors make a big difference, so be sure to ask about the “hot” color.