There’s no better sound than the drag singing with the spring blues!
One of the most exciting migration events of each new season is when gator blues move inshore from their wintering grounds, often at the tail end of April and continuing through May.
Normally the class of bluefish we see along the Northeast seaboard are 6 to 15 pounds with a body appearance that is different from what see in the summer and fall. In early spring the bluefish look like sleek torpedoes with a slender body and a normal size large head. This gives a disproportionate look to their appearance. It looks like the head is too large but in reality it is the body that is too skinny.
Once the blues enter inshore waters they will race around devouring anything in their path to rebuild their fat reserves that have been depleted after a cold winter. For this reason they have often been dubbed “racers.” They will feast on an array of baits such as spearing, anchovies, herring, squid and adult bunker. As gluttonous as they are they will even gobble up cinderworms during their May hatch.
Regardless of which water system you are searching the most productive and consistent waters are usually found away from the open ocean. Incoming tidal waters in the spring bring in much colder ocean waters, which can drop water temperatures about 10 degrees. The outgoing tides, when they occur in the afternoons, will always have the warmest water of the day and can be highly productive.
I love catching bluefish on light tackle and pound for pound they will rival any catch. They are an extremely hardy fish so catching them on light tackle is not going to cause any undue harm on them if you take care with a proper release. Replacing any tailing treble hooks with a single long shank J-hook and crushing down the barb will help to facilitate the release. I like to remove the head and or middle treble hooks on any plugs because blues normally attack a bait from the rear biting off its tail to immobilize it before they come in for the kill.
As far as artificials go just about any will work but casting poppers has to be one of the most exciting ways to go. In the spring you may find many oil slick calm days when the blues will be seen finning near the surface. You can see their dorsals and tail fins peeking and undulating just above the surface. Sneaking up to them in stealth mode and then placing a cast just behind them and retrieving it back will make for an explosive strike. Also the 6-inch floating Daiwa SP minnow in the sand eel or laser green shiner colors has been a go to lure for me as it always produces a strike. These plugs mimic bigger baits that the bluefish want at this time of year.
My go to light tackle spin rod is the 7-foot St Croix Legend Xtreme medium power fast action rod. Spinning reels are spooled with 30- to 40-pound braid with an 8-foot, 30-pound monofilament leader. Wire is not necessary when I am casting 6- to 8-inch swimming plugs or poppers as the length of these artificials keeps the mouth of the bluefish far enough away from the leader when they bite.
Sometimes however it will be other blues that will swipe at the plug on the hooked bluefish and inadvertently hit the leader. If this is happening or if you are using smaller length metals or artificials then tie on a 12-inch piece of 30- to 50-pound tie-able wire leader such as Rio Powerflex Wire Tippet or Tyger wire. These can be tied using conventional knots such as the improved clinch or albright knot to your lure. You connect the tie-able wire to your mono leader with a loop to loop connection.
As with any fish in the ocean or bay bluefish should be treated with respect. Take care in releasing any bluefish not slated for the grill or dinner table as they can be handled safely by tailing them or with a Boga grip.