Published in Chesapeake Angler
Thanksgiving is time to catch the blues. Big bluefish arrive in our waters each fall. You can start looking for them sometime in October and good fishing can be had into January. Thanksgiving Day weekend is about the prime time. Most anglers will have a case of rockfish fever during this time of year. Take a break from the rockfish, pack up some turkey sandwiches, and go on out and do battle with big bruiser bluefish. They will put up a fight that would put a rockfish, twice their size, to shame. After a day of having your tackle destroyed by these fighting machines, your arms will be sore and you will be ready to go back to catching those easy rockfish.
In the past, you could count on chopper bluefish blitzing the beaches each fall. They could be caught near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, surfcasters got into them, and they were a main catch from the seaside fishing piers. That still will happen on occasion but today, to catch big bluefish, you need to run out into the ocean get them. Schools of big bluefish will typically be encountered from ten to forty miles off of the coast. A prime area is the Triangle Reef on into the Tower Reef. Seamounts like the Hot Dog, Fish Hook, and 26 Mile Hill can hold chopper bluefish in the fall/winter. Any of the wrecks out there are likely to have big bluefish cruising around them, looking for something to destroy.
When you see working birds and fish tearing up the surface, that is a good place to fish. Most of the time, it is not that easy. Often, there will be no visible signs that the bluefish are around and you will have to search for them. We will start out at a likely area and go on the troll. There was a time when our lures of choice were things like Rag Mops, Hoochie Trolls, Pet Spoons, and Cisco Kids. Today, we will pull some plugs while searching for fish, lures like Rapala Magnums, Stretch 30+, and Bomber CD 30s.
While trolling around wrecks and over hills, keep an eye on your fish finder. If the fish are on the move, you may do better intercepting them on the troll. At times, you will find them stacked up relating to a wreck or hill. When you find them like that, it is time stop trolling and break out the jigs. Bluefish will jump all over the blade type jigs. The good old diamond jigs are bluefish killers. As long as you are on top of the fish, vertical jigging is the way to go. When you lose the school, go back on the troll and see if you can find them again.
An option to searching for the fish is to bring the bluefish to you. Anchor up on a wreck and put out the chum. While waiting for the choppers to arrive, drop down to wreck and catch sea bass and tautog. When you start bringing up half fish, the bluefish are here. Chunks of cut bait, fished in the chum line, will result in a hook up with a big bluefish. The vertical jigs will work when you have the blues at the boat. When you have them worked up into feeding frenzy, it is time to catch them by casting topwater poppers. Having a bunch of full-grown bluefish blowing up on your plug is about as much fun as you can have while having the blues.
These fall bluefish run large. They will not look like the skinny fish that you find in the springtime that are all head and teeth. These fish are thick, muscular, and they are on the feed. The average fish will weigh about 12 pounds with 14-16 pound fish common. The largest fish will be over 20 pounds and they are all you can handle on typical striped bass tackle.
This Thanksgiving, give the rockfish a day off and go out and see if you can catch a case of the blues!