Fishing for Bluefish, Tips and Techniques

Fishing for Bluefish, tips and techniques for anglers to succeed

This blog post will focus on fishing for bluefish. Bluefish are an aggressive, hard fighting fish species. They are unusual in that they are the only fish in the family Pomatomidae. Bluefish widely distributed throughout the temperate and subtropical parts of the world, excluding the northern Pacific Ocean. This includes the Caribbean, Coast of Gulf of Mexico, and up the eastern seaboard to the mid Atlantic. They are known by other names in Africa and Australia.

Bluefish are very powerful, using their broad bodies and large, broad tails to put up a terrific fight. They are generally found in fairly large schools, and this adds to the aggressiveness. Competition forms within the group to see who can catch and devour the prey. This makes them a fantastic game fish!

fishing Siesta Key

Fishing for bluefish, baits and techniques

One technique that we use here in Sarasota quite often is drifting the deep grass flats. We simply drift over the submerge grass with the wind and tide while casting out lures in search of game fish. Jacks will oftentimes be found in such locations, even when surface activity is not present. As with bluefish fishing everywhere, they usually school up and are quite aggressive.

The jig and grub combo is a great all round saltwater bait. It is a great choice when targeting bluefish, and really any other inshore species. A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch- 4 inch shad tail trailer is a good all-around combo. Color doesn’t matter that much, though when possible it is best to match the clarity of the water. Light-colored baits work best in clear water while darker colored baits work better and water that is stained.

Drift fishing for bluefish

Drifting with either lures, live bait, and cut bait produces plenty of bluefish all over the world. In deeper water with swift currents, heavy jigs and jigging spoons work well. They mimic wounded bait fish and stay in the strike zone the entire time. As with all lure fishing, the baits should match the size of the available forage.

fishing for bluefish

Anglers drifting with chunks or strips of fresh or frozen cut bait catch many bluefish as well. Squid is a top frozen bait. Where possible, most anglers prefer to use fresh caught cut bait. Pogies, spot, sardines, and any other oily fish make great cut baits. These can be fished right on the bottom or drifted higher up in the water column.

Fishing for bluefish with artificial lures

Anglers casting plugs enjoy some terrific light tackle action on bluefish. They will draw some ferocious strikes! Top water plugs are fun and exciting, however shallow diving plugs are generally more productive. Anglers can blind cast likely looking spots such as mangrove shorelines, seawalls, docks, and other structure. Casting plugs into breaking fish is obviously great fun. Two drawbacks to using plugs are the initial cost and having to deal with a pair of treble hooks. Some manufacturers are now offering plugs with a pair of single hooks.

Florida bluefish

Spoons are very effective lures for bluefish as well. They cast the mile, can be worked back aggressively, and closely mimic most bait fish that are in the water. They are reasonably priced and anglers can easily replace the trouble hook with a single J hook.

Fly anglers will do well with any bait fish imitations. An all white or chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow on a number one hook is a great all round choice. One of the few times that blues can be fussy is when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows. This is a circumstance where the fly fisherman can shine, as it is easier to match the hats with a small fly than it is with a heavy artificial lure.

Surface feeding bluefish

Most anglers agree that the most enjoyable bluefish fishing is had when they are feeding on the surface. This is termed “breaking fish” or “busting fish”. However, whatever you call it, it is great fun! Bluefish will herd bait fish to the top, trapping then against the surface of the water. The bluefish will chase the helpless bait out of the water! This can be sen from quite a distance away on a calm day. Diving birds are a great indication of feeding fish.

Florida bluefish

This type of fishing is relatively straightforward. Fish are seen on the surface, and the boat is placed in front of them. Anglers cast lures out in front of the fish, and a strike almost always occurs as they are in an aggressive mood. This can happen close to shore for anglers surf fishing as well. Spoons, plugs, and jigs will all produce fish when they are breaking on the surface.

Trolling for bluefish

Trolling is an excellent technique that many anglers use to locate bluefish, especially when they are not found feeding on the surface. This technique allows anglers to cover a lot of water in a short time. Also, lures can be presented at several different depths to cover the water column as well. Spoons and plugs are the top trolling lures, though jigs will work, too, especially at slower speeds.

Tackle requirements can get complicated for anglers that troll. In most cases, heavier conventional tackle works best. Also, anglers will often use wire line, planers, heavy weights, and downriggers to get the baits down in deeper water. However, in shallow water, it can be as simple as trolling a lipped plug or two out behind the boat.

Tackle for bluefish fishing

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

fishing for bluefish

The tackle an angler uses when targeting bluefish depends on the size of the jacks that may be encountered. After all, the world record is almost 32 pounds! In Sarasota where I fish, most bluefish are in the to to 3 pound range with the occasional fish reaching 6 pounds. For this fishing, the same light to medium spinning tackle that is used for other inshore species works fine.

In Florida and other places where the water is clear, many anglers use flourocarbon leaders. A 30 pound to 40 pound piece of fluorocarbon leader is used between the running line and the lure to help reduce cutoffs. You notice I said “reduce”! Anglers using flourocarbon leaders will lose some tackle. Wires leaders will eliminate cutoffs and many anglers use them, especially in water that has some color or when bluefish are feeding aggressively.

Anglers who fish on the East Coast may need to beef the tackle up a bit. Schools of large bluefish are notorious for tearing up tackle from North Carolina to Maine. Light conventional tackle may be a better choice, especially when drift fishing or trolling.

Surf fishing for bluefish

Surf fishing for bluefish is very popular all along the east coast. Hatteras is a world renowned surf fishing destination. There are also many spots in New England as well as almost all of the mid-Atlantic beaches.  Surf fishing does require more patience as anglers are limited as to where they can fish. They will chase fish up and down the beach should a “bluefish blitz” occur.

surf fishing

Anglers can use both artificial lures and cut bait. Many take a two pronged approach. They will put out a chunk or strip of cut bait on a fairly heavy rod using a “fish finder” rig. This allows for the bait to float around naturally. While waiting for a fish to find the bait, anglers can cast lures out in search of a feeding fish. This works well and keeps the angler busy!

Fly fishing for bluefish

The same decision holds true for fly anglers. While an eight weight outfit is perfect for the Sarasota area, anglers on the East Coast or in the Caribbean might be better off with a 10 weight outfit. With either selection an intermediate sink tip line is the best all round choice. An 8 foot to 10 foot paper leader with a 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the rig.

Florida bluefish

As a fishing guide in Sarasota, I’m on the water around 200 days a year. Rarely do I actually target bluefish. In most instances they are a happy interruption as we target other species on the flats and in the passes. I treat them as a target of opportunity, never turning down a chance when I see a school of bluefish foraging on the surface.

Live bait chumming, Tips to succeed!

Live bait chumming is a very effective fishing technique for many species, including bluefish. It does require some specialized equipment. Extra effort is also needed. But it pays off, big time!

Chumming is a technique anglers have been using ever since they’ve been fishing. This is simply the act of dispersing some type of food in the water to attract fish. Most anglers chum with oily bait fish that have been ground up and frozen. This does work well. Live bait chumming takes us to a whole another level.

fishing for bluefish

It is easy to see why this technique is so productive. Imagining sitting on your favorite lounge chair and then someone walks by with a plate full of warm brownies fresh out of the oven. You’re going to eat one, whether you’re hungry or not! Chumming will get fish excited and bring them up behind the boat where they can be caught fairly easily.

The technique is fairly simple, but does require some specialized equipment. The first point of order is a cast net. Live bait chumming requires a lot of bait. Catching them with a hook and line is just not practical. However, an angler can put several hundred frisky live baits in the well in short order.

Live bait chumming, cast nets

Cast nets come in different sizes and also mesh sizes. An 8 foot cast net is 8 feet long, which is the radius. That equates to a circumference of around 50 feet. That will catch a lot of bait. Obviously, a larger net will catch more bait. However, it is more difficult to cast and to unload.

inshore saltwater fishing

At this point, it just becomes a matter of angler preference. I personally prefer to throw a smaller net such as the 8 foot net four or five times as opposed to a 12 foot net twice. Again, it is just a matter of personal preference, there is no wrong choice. I would consider a 6 foot net to be the smallest that will practically catch enough bait required for this technique.

Mesh size is crucial! The mesh size needs to be geared to both the size of the bait being targeted and the depth of the water being fished. A net with a small mesh will catch smaller bait fish. It will also sinks lower due to the resistance of the net.

Small mesh cast nets work well in shallow water

Here in Florida where I fish, I find a 1/4 inch mesh to be perfect. It will catch both small and large bait fish. And, since I rarely catch bait in water deeper than 3 feet, a slowly sinking that does not hinder my efforts. Anglers who cast a net with a large mass over bait that is a little too small will “gill”the baits.

This means that they will get caught in the middle of the mesh. This will kill the baits and the angler will spend a lot of time removing these fish that are stuck in the net. This is another reason to go with a smaller mesh. Anglers who are forced to catch bait in deeper water will have no choice but to use a larger diameter net with a larger mesh.

Other live bait chumming factors

The final factor in a cast net are the weights on the circumference of the net. Obviously, more weight per foot will cause the net to sink faster. Generally speaking, that’s are designed with the proper amount of weight. Manufacturers realize that a smaller diameter net with small mesh will be used in shallow water. This will not require as much weight. Conversely, a large diameter net with larger mesh will have heavier weights.

chumming with live bait

Once the net is procured, the angler will need to learn to cast. There are many good resources for this, so I will not go into it in depth here. There are several different methods in which to cast a net. I prefer putting the net in my teeth, but not everyone does. This is a good one on YouTube.

Live bait chumming requires a large bait well

The other specialized piece of equipment required for live bait chumming is a large recirculating live well with rounded corners. Putting a lot of bait fish in a confined area requires that freshwater be added constantly. A high-volume pump pushes the water in and a spray nozzle aerator. A drain then allows the old water to be removed. This constant changing of the water and adding oxygen will keep the bait alive and active.

Bait wells need to have rounded corners. Otherwise, the bait fish will swim nose first into a corner and die. The bait fish need to be constantly moving. Most boats these days have these type of wells built in. This is especially true on saltwater fishing boats. These types of systems are easily purchased for anglers fishing on boats that do not have these types of wells already installed.

Live bait chumming, catching bait

Now, let’s go catch some bait! It seems like the bait is either very easy to catch or very difficult to catch. Here in Florida, bait fish are fairly abundant in the summer time. I normally start catching bait in late spring and quit around Thanksgiving. Live bait chumming is the most effective in the summer time when the water is warm.

The best spot to catch live bait for chumming is on the shallow grass flats and bars. Spots such as this close to the passes are particularly effective. The bait fish tend to migrate in from the passes and inlets, especially on an incoming tide. Bridges and markers are also good places to cast net for bait.

The bait fish can often times be seen “dimpling”on the surface. This makes catching them easier. The angler can either drift up on the school of bait or use the trolling motor to get in position. The net is then cast over the bait, allowed to sink, and the net with bait pulled in and emptied into the well. If the sun is up, the bait can often times be seen flashing along the bottom. When conditions are calm, bait can be thick right on the beaches. Anglers just need to use caution in the shallow water.

Chum for the chum

There are times when the angler will need to chum. Yes, we need to chum for the chum! Every angler has his or her “secret”chum mixture. My personal favorite is a mixture of canned mackerel and wheat bread. I use about one third of a loaf of wheat bread for a 16 ounce can of mackerel. This is cheap and very effective. Anglers also use dry commercial fish food successfully. It is easier to store and not as messy.

bluefish on a jig

The approach when chumming for bait fish is to anchor up tied of the area to be finished. Small amounts of chum are then tossed over the stern. If the bait fish are around, it won’t take them long to start eating the chum. Once that happens, a larger piece of chum, about the size of a golf ball, is tossed out. Give it a few seconds, then cast the net over the bait.

As mentioned earlier, this technique requires special equipment and some extra effort. The good news is that catching the bait is the hard part. Once a well full of frisky baits is acquired, fishing is usually pretty easy.

Live bait chumming techniques

Live bait chumming is effective on a wide variety of species in addition to jack crevalle. In the summer time it is used on the deeper grass flats here in Sarasota. Anglers on a fishing charter will also catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, sharks, jacks, gag grouper, and tons of ladyfish using this technique.

This method is simple and will allow anglers with very little experience to catch a lot of fish. The boat is anchored upwind and up tied of a likely flat with a grassy bottom in 6 to 8 feet of water. Bait fish are tossed out behind the boat, about a dozen at a time. I will often times squeeze the bait, injuring it. Crippled bait fish swimming helplessly on the surface will attract the game fish in short order.

Once the jack crevalle and other species are seen feeding on the “freebies”, hooked baits are tossed out into the mix. It usually does not take long before a fish is hooked. Chumming gets the fish in an aggressive and active mood and catching them is relatively easy. Anglers can find all Florida fishing regulations at the FWC website.

18 awesome bluefish fishing tips

Bluefish put up a great fight on light tackle! Bluefish are aggressive, leap often when hooked, and pull incredibly hard. I also think they are underrated eating when properly handled. Here are 18 awesome bluefish fishing tips.

fishing for bluefish

Bluefish are well known to anglers all along the East Coast of the United States. They are a staple in the New England area. Our bluefish down here in Florida do not grow quite as large. However, when targeted using light tackle, they are great fun. Bluefish are available year-round but are more plentiful in the cooler months.

Most Florida bluefish are probably caught by anglers targeting other species. Here in Sarasota where I fish, we often encounter them on the deep grass flats. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters drift submerge grass beds and 6 to 10 feet of water. Jigs, plugs, and other lures along with live bait are used.

Bluefish Tips

1)  Jigs catch most of the bluefish for my anglers. Jigs are very effective when the water is a bit cooler, under 70°. This is the time that we normally run into bluefish on the deep flats. Often times, the bluefish will be out an 8 to 10 feet of water. Jigs are more effective as a can get down in the water column where the bluefish are feeding. Jigs are also easy to cast and have a great action.

2)  While bucktail jigs and synthetic care jigs can be used, the jig and grub combo is a better choice. There are several reasons for this. The primary reason is a practical one; bluefish will destroy an expensive buck tail jig after a fish or two. However, with the jig and grub combo, the body is relatively inexpensive and is easily replaced.

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

3)  1/4 ounce jig heads are the best choice for fishing water of this depth. Anglers fishing deeper water or waters with stronger current may need to bump it up to 1/2 ounce or even a 1 ounce jig head. I don’t find that jig head color makes much of a difference. I often use unpainted jig heads with good success.

4)  In my opinion the shad tail grub is the most effective for Florida bluefish and other species. These tales have a great built in action that mimics bait fish. Paddle tails also work well, though they are more reliant on the angler to impart the action. I have found twister tale baits to be too fragile for saltwater fishing. They draw strikes, but the tales just do not remain intact for very long. Small bait fish can easily remove them.

Fishing for bluefish with plugs and spoons

5)  Plugs are another effective artificial lure for catching bluefish. This is especially true when the fish are working on the surface. We call these “breaking”fish. Shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap Slashbait work very well. Often times the trouble hooks will become damaged after a few fish. I do just as well by removing both trouble hooks and adding a single “J” hook on the rear. The bait remains effective and handling and releasing fish is easier and safer.

6)  Spoons also catch a lot of bluefish. A spoon is a very simple lure. It is basically a piece of shiny metal formed in the shape of a teardrop. A half ounce silver spoon is the perfect size here in Sarasota. These lures cast a long way. This can be important on days when the fish are breaking and moving around a lot.

7)  All three of these lures are worked in a similar fashion. Bluefish for the most part are very aggressive. The jig and spoon are cast out and allowed to sink for several seconds. Most plugs float on the surface at rest. Then, the lures are retrieved back in using an aggressive twitch. The slack is then reeled up and the lure twitched again. Often times the bite will occur during that pause.

8)  When bluefish are very active, a fast steady retrieve will often produce. When fish are busting and they are in a feeding frenzy, it rarely matters what you cast at them. As long as the lure remotely resembles the size and shape of the bait fish that they are feeding on, they will generally strike it.

Catching bluefish on live bait

9)  While artificial lures catch many Florida bluefish, live bait produces as well. The number one live bait on the West Coast of Florida is the shrimp. Shrimp are available year-round at all local bait shops. The best approach when using live shrimp is to free line the bait out behind the boat and let it drift with the tide. A small split shot can be used to get the bait down on breezy days or if the current is strong.

10)  Live bait fish can be used successfully as well when targeting bluefish. The number one Florida live bait is the scaled sardine, also known as a pilchard. These bait fish are usually around from June until November. Anglers cast net them on the shallow grass flats. Anglers on the East Coast do well with pogies and finger mullet. Using a long shank hook will help anglers reduce cutoffs when using live bait.

Bluefish leaders

11)  The water is clear and Florida most of the time. While wire leader’s can be used, strikes will be significantly reduced. Most anglers choose to use a ”shock leader”. This is a 30 inch piece of heavier monofilament. 30 pound test to 40 pound test works well. Hooks and lures will still be lost to the sharp teeth of bluefish. However anglers will get more strikes, so it is a trade-off.Northern anglers fishing in stained water for larger fish often opt for wire leaders.

12)  The same rig is used with both live bait and artificial bait. I double the last 3 feet of my running line, whether it is monofilament or braided line. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 30 pound test to 40 pound test fluorocarbon leader using a Double Uni Knot. I then attach the lure or hook to the tag end of the leader.

Bluefish locations

13)  Bluefish are found in the bays, passes and inlets, in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. They are seldom encountered very far offshore. As mentioned earlier, grass flats and 5 feet of water to 10 feet of water are prime spots. Anglers drift over the flats casting lures or live baits until the fish are located. Anglers can also choose to “run and gun”in search of breaking fish.

14)  Passes and inlets are great spots to catch bluefish. These are fish highways that connect the inshore bays to the open Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic ocean. Many of these passes and inlets offer access to anglers without a boat. Rocky jetties and peers that line these inlets and passes can be terrific spots. Anglers can drift the passes both casting lures and drifting live baits. Often times the fish will be right out in the middle. Casting to shoreline structure can also be effective. Anglers need to be careful of swift currents and boat traffic when fishing passes and inlets.

Surf fishing for bluefish

15)  Many bluefish are caught by anglers fishing right off the beach as well. This is more of an East Coast technique. While anglers on the West Coast of Florida to catch bluefish off the beach, it is less frequent than on the Atlantic Ocean side.

16)  Anglers surf fishing off the Atlantic Ocean beaches use specialized tackle. Long rods are used, between 10 and 13 feet long. They are matched with large reels and high-capacity spools. These long rods are used to achieve both casting distance and to keep the line up above the crashing waves.

17)  Most angler surf fishing for bluefish use cut bait. Artificial lures can certainly be used, especially on calm days when fish are seen breaking on the surface. Just about any freshly caught legal fish will work. Fresh mullet is tough to beat. The bait fish is either cut into strips or chunks and fished on the bottom. Strips of squid can also be effective.

Fly fishing

18)  Fly anglers love catching Florida bluefish! A 3 pound bluefish puts up an incredible fight on a fly rod. An 8wt outfit is a good all-around choice. Intermediate sink tip or sinking lines work best as bluefish are often found in slightly deeper water. The leader is a 9 foot tapered leader with a short 30 pound bite tippet. Just about any bait fish pattern will produce, with in all white Clouser Minnow being my number one all round choice

As mentioned in the beginning, I think bluefish get a bad rap when it comes to eating. However, they do require a bit more care. The meat is a little darker and the fish is a bit bloody. Bleeding the fish when it’s caught really improves the quality of the meat. While the fishes alive, the gills or cut and the fish pumps all the blood out of its body. This is best done in the bait well. The bluefish send needs to be put on ice immediately and eaten that they are the next. I find small bluefish and the to pound to 3 pound range to be very good eating.

In conclusion, this article on fishing for bluefish will help anglers catch more of these hard-fighting fish!

Florida bluefish

Florida Bluefish

Quite a few of my clients are surprised to find out that we have Florida bluefish. Experienced anglers from the Northeast and mid Atlantic are quite familiar with this saltwater brawler. However, Florida has a good population of them as well.

Bluefish are the sole member of the family “Pomatomidae”. They are a pelagic species, meaning they spend their time in the middle of the water column. They are widely distributed throughout the world. Anglers from Maine to the Carolina’s target them from boats, jetties and peers, and the surf. Pound for pound, bluefish are one of the strongest fighting game fish in the sea.  Florida has them in good numbers most of the year.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Florida bluefish

Read current Sarasota fishing report

Most of the bluefish that we see in Florida are smaller than their northern brethren. Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide, bluefish average 2 pounds and a 5 pound are is a nice fish. However, though they are smaller, they are just as much fun. This is due mostly to the fact that we fish for them with very light tackle on my Sarasota fishing charters.

Florida bluefish locations

Florida bluefish are caught in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, and along the beaches. They prefer clean, clear water and water temperatures in the low to mid 70s. Bluefish school up in large numbers and are very aggressive. Often times bluefish will be seen feeding voraciously on the surface. This is a great opportunity as just about any lure or bait cast into the mix will draw strike.

Florida inshore bays for the most part are fairly shallow. Grass flats abound. Florida bluefish seem to prefer areas that are a mixture of sand and grass in depths of between six and 12 feet deep. Flats and bays near inlets and passes are generally the most productive. Bluefish require a high level of salinity, they cannot tolerate brackish water.

Florida bluefish

Florida bluefish follow baitfish

At one point or another every mile of the Florida coast will experience some type of bait fish run. Predators will usually not be very far behind. This includes Florida bluefish as well. East Coast anglers experience the famous mullet run while on the West Coast it is more thread fin herring and Spanish sardines.

No matter what the bait fish being pursued, there are few angling circumstances that can compete with breaking fish when it comes to pure excitement! The sight of a school of game fish terrorizing hapless bait fish on the surface is exhilarating. Also, anglers know that just about any bait or lower tossed into the mix will draw a strike.

While many anglers target Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species, bluefish can be often found in these feeding frenzies. This is one instance whether anglers can bump up the leader to steel and not see a market decrease in strikes. These fish are usually so fired up and aggressive that they will hit a spoon, plug, or jig with reckless abandon.  This is a fun and exciting Sarasota fishing charter!

Florida bluefish

Many bluefish are landed by anglers seeking other species. A very popular technique in Florida is to drift the grass flats while casting a lower or live bait in search of fish. Anglers will encounter schools of Florida bluefish while doing this. When one fish is caught, expect more to follow. Bluefish will sometimes be seen feeding on the surface, but quite often there will be no indication of their presence until one is hooked.

Florida bluefish lures

Florida bluefish are very aggressive and a fast-moving lure will get their attention. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are the most popular artificial lures. If I was targeting bluefish or was fishing in an area where I knew they could be present, I would choose a jig and grub as my preferred lure.

Jigs are my preference when fishing for Florida bluefish for several reasons. Most importantly, they are effective and catch fish. But there are other reasons as well. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and cutoffs will occur. In clear Florida waters, a fluorocarbon leader will produce many more strikes than a steel leader will. For this reason, lures and hooks will be cut off by bluefish. Jigs are relatively inexpensive. They also have one large single hook, making handling and releasing bluefish easier.

Florida bluefish

Spoons are another effective lure when targeting Florida bluefish. A 1/2 ounce spoon is very aerodynamic and will cast a long way on light spinning tackle. Silver is the preferred color in clear water. Most casting spoons come with a trouble hook which can be easily replaced with a single hook if desired. A snap swivel at the lure or a swivel between the leader and running line will reduce line twist.

Plugs are very productive when chasing Florida bluefish. It is very exciting to see bluefish blowup on a top water plug! However, there are a couple drawbacks to casting plugs. Plugs are expensive with the average cost being around $10. Several anglers casting into a school of bluefish can lose a fair amount of money quickly! Also, most plugs come equipped with trouble hooks. These can be dangerous when trying to unhook an angry bluefish.

Florida bluefish on a fly rod

Anglers who enjoy catching their fish on a fly rod will find bluefish to be great fun! Since most of the Florida bluefish run between two and 5 pounds, and eight weight outfit is perfect. The best line choice would be an intermediate sink tip line. This will allow the fly to get down in the water column and still be stripped back quickly. As the spin fishing, bluefish respond best to a fast retrieve.

Florida bluefish

A 9 foot tapered leader with a 24 inch section of 40 pound bite tippet is a good all-around choice. When bluefish are feeding aggressively, the fly choice really isn’t that important. If I had to choose one fly, it would be in all white Clouse Minnow with 3/16 ounce eyes tied on a number one hook. However, just about any bait fish imitations will produce. One trick we use here in Sarasota is to tie are flies on a long shank#1/0 hook. The longer shank acts like a steel leader and reduces cutoffs without reducing the number of strikes.

Florida bluefish on live bait

While casting artificial lures and flies is great fun, many bluefish are caught using live and cut bait as well. Live shrimp and live bait fish are the top live baits. Mullet, squid, and sardines are the top cut baits. In reality, any fish that is legal to keep can be cut up and used effectively as bait.

Sarasota fishing report

Anglers choosing to surf fish almost always opt for cut bait. It really just is a practical decision and is effective. The East Coast beaches tend to have higher waves and rougher surf. Cut bait stays on the hook better during a long cast and with the stronger current and wave action. Bait can be cut into long narrow strips or into chunks. Pier anglers often times use cut bait as well.

The best rig when using cut bait to surf fish for Florida bluefish is the fish finder rig. This consists of a narrow tube with a big clip on. The running line passes through the tube and then is tied onto a swivel. A 2 foot to 3 foot leader is attached to the other end of the swivel and then a large hook is attached to the other end of the leader. A pyramid sinker of appropriate weight given the wind and tide is attached using the clip.

Live bait for surf bluefish

Anglers can certainly use live bait when surf fishing as well. This is particularly true on the West Coast of Florida where the wave and tide action is generally more gentle. When using live bait, the best approach is to use the least amount of weight possible. Anglers will find bluefish on the West Coast quite close to shore, often in the first trough.

jig fishing for bluefish

Anglers drifting over the grass flats and in the passes will catch Florida bluefish on live bait. One technique that works really well is to free line the bait. This means that the shrimp is hooked on to the hook with no weight being added to the line. The shrimp or bait fish then swims naturally in the water. Since bluefish are often high in the water column, this is a very effective technique. To reduce cutoffs, a long shank hook is preferred.

Passes and inlets are virtual fish highways that game fish and bait fish use to migrate between the inshore bays and the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. These are natural spots to find bluefish. Currents can be strong in these areas, so artificial lures are usually a better choice. Anglers can cast to rocks and rip rap or bounce a jig vertically along as they drift. Once again, keeping an eye out for surface activity will increase the chances of success.

Bluefish fishing

There are several spots here in Sarasota that consistently produce bluefish. Probably the most reliable area is called the middle grounds. It is a large area with a sandy bottom and grass growing out to 10 feet deep. It lies just north of New Pass on the west side of Sarasota Bay. This spot is adjacent to new pass, which gives it excellent current flow. It is a large area and drifting is usually the best approach.

inshore saltwater fishing

Jigs are the best lure to use when fishing for bluefish at that spot. The fish can be out into the water is deep is 12 feet, and jigs will get down deep enough to cover the water column effectively. Spoons and plugs can be used when fish are seen actively breaking on the surface.

Deep grass flats and passes are productive for bluefish

There are several other flats that produce bluefish in Sarasota. The area between Bird Key and Siesta Key is just east of Big Pass and is another spot that produces bluefish regularly. Further North and Sarasota Bay, Bishop’s Pt., Stephen’s Pt., and Buttonwood are good deep grass flats that produce bluefish.

Both passes can be good spots for bluefish, especially in the cooler months. Fish use these passes to migrate between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Bluefish will often be seen foraging on the surface. Sometimes Spanish mackerel will be mixed in as well as ladyfish. When surface activity is not seen, drifting with jigs will help anglers locate fish.

Point of Rocks off of Siesta Key is a spot along the beach that will concentrate bluefish. There is not a lot of structure along the beach, with the exception of the spot. That is why it attracts so many fish. It is a large area with rocks that protrude out into the water. Bluefish and many other game fish can be caught at the spot.

Bluefish for dinner

In my opinion, bluefish get a bad rap when it comes to eating quality. The smaller bluefish and the 2 to 3 pound range are delicious! However they do require a bit more care. I bleed any bluefish that I plan to keep. I do this by cutting the gills and putting the fish in the bait well. This will result in the fish pumping all the blood out of its body, making the flesh not quite as dark.

Then, I get the fish on ice as quickly as possible. Bluefish are oily and do not freeze well. Keep only what you need for a meal that evening. There is an area of darker meat on the backside of the fillet. On larger fish, this area can be cut out for cooking. On smaller fillets, it is best to cook it and work around the dark strip if desired. This darker meat is perfectly safe to eat, some people just find it a bit unappealing.

My favorite recipe when preparing bluefish is very simple. I preheat an oven to 400° then cover both sides of the bluefish filet and a tire breadcrumbs. Tire breadcrumbs have plenty of seasoning which makes things nice and easy along with making a nice c crust. Thin lemon slices are placed over top of the fillets in the fishes baked for 8 to 10 minutes. I can then be served with a lemon dill sauce or any other sauce that is preferred. Bluefish are also good grilled, smoked, and used in chowder.

Florida fishing regulations

Florida bluefish regulations can be found HERE.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236