Blackfish (tautog), wreck fishing chartersStriped bass (stripers) charters, trolling and chunking Karen Ann II - New Jersey Charter Boat35' Custom Downeast Sportfisherman / New Jersey Charterboat Bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, chunking and trolling, inshore and canyonMako shark, offshore fishing
  Wrecks - Bottom - Trolling - Inshore - Offshore 23 April 2018
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Spring Bluefishing

Anglers often mark their calendars in the spring by "the day the first --- arrived". If you haven't yet done so, it's time to mark your calendars for bluefish. They have arrived, and as is typically the case, they have come with an appetite.

Bluefish generally show up in Great Bay sometime in April. Given the colder water of this winter and spring, the first blues didn't show until this past weekend, the first weekend of May. The first fish are taken by anglers fishing bait, and within the next week, you can find the bluefish by following the laughing gulls around the bay and inlet.

There are two different types of bluefishing that can be done in the bay in the Spring. (While the fishing described herein applies mostly to Great Bay, I suspect anglers all around the state will find similar fishing.) First, there are the schools of smaller blues, generally from 1 to 4 pounds. These fish are the most active and the most easily spotted, usually feeding under large flocks of laughing gulls. Second, there are larger fish, averaging 7 to 10 pounds. These "slammer" blues are some of the leanest bluefish you will ever see, appearing as almost all head after spending a large amount of energy on their northward migration.

Following the birds and using artificial lures is your best bet for catching the smaller blues. Casting small metal lures and bucktails (two of my favorites are the 101SB Hopkins and a 2 oz. red and white bucktail) into the schools of marauding blues will result in a hookup almost every time. When trolling, small Clarke spoons (size 2 and 3) are great, and I often add a piece of pork rind with a stinger hook if I get knockdowns without hooking up. Look for fish further up the bay on the high tide (139 marker down to Oyster and Motts Creeks), while the blues are more likely to be found closer to the inlet as the tide ebbs.

Many people don't get into the larger blues because they are often caught sight unseen. An early season fluke angler fishing a piece of cut mackerel will curse the 8 pound blue as it easily bites through the fluke rig but will write off the occurrence as a one-off simply because they don't see the "signs". The truth is that there are many more of these larger fish where that one came from, and they are marked by subtle signs such as an oil slick on the water's surface. The fluke angler's catch was no "fluke" as the mackerel strip is the bait of choice. Anchor the boat as the tide starts to move...I like where Grassy Channel meets the ICW near 135 marker on the flood tide and the mouth of the Mullica River or along Little Beach in the inlet on the ebb tide...and put out strip baits around 3" - 4" long. Many people prefer wire rigs for the bluefish, but if you really want to catch more fish in the 10 foot depths you are fishing, use 40 pound leader material and bring a few extra hooks with you; the increased action will more than make up for every fifth fish lost to a bite off. I like to rig about a 40" leader of 40 pound mono with a 3-way swivel on one end and a 5/0 Mustad 92642 (gold, w/baitholder) hook on the other end. I will put a 2" red float on the leader and adjust it either closer or further from the hook which allows me to help get the bait up off the bottom. Attach just enough weight to the swivel to keep the rig down in the tide.

Spring bluefishing is one of the most exciting fisheries we have here in Great Bay. The time is now, so get out there and enjoy the action!

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