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Hard to beat the feisty action of a bluefish

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The big fishing news in the last week has been the arrival of some serious bluefish schools to the area. Up and down the coast, anglers are catching blues of all sizes. The piers have done particularly well, and a lot of anglers are getting in on the bluefish action.

Bluefish are the sole member of their own family. They do not play well with others. They are found all over the world, and only big predators like king mackerel want anything to do with them (kings eat blues, which is why the folks at the end of the piers use them for bait). They travel in schools of similar size, and you won’t find smaller blues running with big blues for fear of being eaten.

Blues fall into different size categories that pier anglers make familiar by giving the toothy, aggressive fish fitting names. Small blues are called snappers, medium fish are tailors and the big ones from about 5 to 25 pounds are called choppers.

Blues prefer high salinity water but are adaptable enough to go well up the inlets and river to water that is nearly fresh. Smaller bluefish can be found all over inside, but the bigger ones prefer the blue water. Every once in a while you can catch a chopper blue in the waterway, but many more are landed from the pier.

If you are fishing for food, the small blues are underrated and better tasting than most people think, as long as you don’t fry them. The bigger ones aren’t as good, but many people still eat them.

Chopper blues are caught on live bait by anglers with king mackerel rigs. Most of us, however, get our bluefish action by throwing pencil plugs like the famous Gotcha lures for smaller blues. Pluggers work either side of the pier, tossing the lures as far out as they can and whipping them back to them quickly. Blues like a fast retrieve. (Spanish mackerel like one even faster). These plugs carry great casting distance for a small lure.

Gotcha and similar lures are thin plugs with pencil-like bodies and colored heads, which come with several treble hooks. Blues are known to be turned on by the color red, just like an angry bull. The most popular combination is a redheaded/white-bodied pencil plug. Many other combinations are available, though, and strange colors can sometimes catch fish even if you are the only one tossing them out.

Because blues have sharp teeth, most people throwing plugs at them use some kind of leader. Leaders protect from cutoffs but may also cut down on bites. Some folks use black wire. If you are using wire, you should go with black, since blues might strike at bright wire or swivels instead of the lure.

If possible, I will use heavy monofilament leaders instead of wire, depending on the size of the fish being caught. Mono will get more hits, and it will also attract Spanish, which are far more easily spooked by wire than blues. If you are getting cut off, however, you need to go with wire.

As for the rest of the fishing, it is also heating up with the weather, although windy days have been a problem for some boaters. There are still good catches of puppy red drum and nice 2- to 4-pound black drum around structure inshore. The speckled trout bite will actually get slower as the weather stays hot, but some of the biggest specks of the year are usually caught in May.

The news that interests the most anglers is the arrival of the flounder in force. Up until now there have been more throw-back flounder than keepers, but that is rapidly changing. Flounder are hitting around their usual spots now, such as docks and bridges, and boaters are taking them drifting and trolling in the inlets. Soon the piers will start picking up more of them.

If you are just out for fun, though, it’s hard to beat the fast action of the feisty bluefish. Get a supply of pencil plugs and start casting out. When a bluefish grabs it you’ll know, and the battle is on.

JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at saltyweeks@gmail.com or follow updated fishing reports on his blog at http://saltyweeks.blogspot.com.