Back when I first arrived in Florida I was almost strictly a fresh water fisherman and when it came to the briny side of angling I was surely a pure rube.
Riding south on A1A in 1968, I came upon Sebastian Inlet south of Melbourne and encountered maybe 50 fishermen lining the beach. That caused me to pull over and inquire as to what the attraction could be. "Bluefish run" was the answer.
Everyone there had a bucket filled with fish all about 15 inches long. Later I would learn that blues are usually all the same size from one school. When I admired a freshly caught fish the angler gave it to me and I headed back to my car with the prize.
As a fresh water fisherman, I didn't give a second thought to putting my finger through the lip of the bluefish. Before I had taken five steps the blue clamped down and the blood flew from my hand. That was a lesson hard learned but never forgotten.
Bluefish have a mouth full of sharp teeth and even if you are not dumb enough to put you finger in one's mouth, you may still suffer a bite.
Bluefish will try to bite their captor. Make no mistake about that.
From that first day at Sebastian Inlet, I have been a solid fan. In the early 1970s, the bluefish run each spring and fall on our local beaches was nothing short of spectacular.
In Ormond Beach it was not unusual to find 15 or 20 fishermen lined up on the beach jerking them in.
Back then blues came down the beach by the millions. I remember one spring I was at the inlet with two buddies in my 19-foot boat when I spotted a lot of birds diving about a mile offshore.
I roared out with my big 100-horse Mercury and pulled right into the center of a bluefish feeding frenzy. Thousands of blues were eating a floating mat of baitfish and when I cut the engine the noise from their feeding was deafening. So loud was the chopping fish, we had to shout in order to be heard.
I guess we caught more than 200 blues that day and made a memory of a lifetime. Sadly the bluefish numbers now are well below those days, but we still get a good run each spring and fall. Anyone willing to spend a little time in the surf with cut mullet can catch a few battling bluefish. Inside the inlet they travel up and down in packs feeding in our rivers and streams. With such vicious feeders, your level of skill is of little importance. Willing to attack anything that moves, the bluefish will hit any lure or bait. My favorite is a spoon or clothespin type lure if only because of their sturdiness. Bluefish will devour any soft bait and can put a hurt on your favorite plug.
When fishing for blues always use a steel leader. If you are not much of a fisherman all you need do is put out a couple spoons and troll slowly in any area that seems to be holding fish. My favorite place for that is near Ponce Inlet. Trolling back and forth just east of Disappearing Island is a good place for blues. As a food fish they are mostly under appreciated. Not so in the past. A menu from the posh Hotel Ormond from the early 1900s shows the chef there featured them in several ways. Grilled or in garlic butter and bluefish almandine were listed nightly.
In those days, the local waters had to be teeming with all kinds of fish but that exclusive restaurant served a lot of bluefish. I find them excellent when smoked, but I will never turn down a plate of fried either. If you are a veteran angler or a beginner, you could do worse than waging battle with bluefish. The state record is 22 pounds, but ours seldom pass four pounds.
The minimum legal to keep is 12 inches measured from the fork of the tail and you may take 10 a day. From now until the first of June, you can usually find them just about anyplace in the inshore or on the beach. Get out and have some fun but be smart and keep your fingers out of their mouths.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.