This past weekend marked the WICC, the world’s greatest bluefish tournament, in the Long Island Sound.
A whopping $25,000 dollars was offered for the angler that caught the largest fish. Second place scored $10,000 —a chunk of change not to laugh about. For a $45 dollar entry fee, you, too, could hope to catch one of those fierce fighters.
There is nothing in these local waters that fights like a large-sized blue, and this fish, which is regarded by many as sub-par table fare, becomes famous for a weekend each year.
I recently left the house of a friend of mine and went over his game plan so that he and his son had a chance of catching a placing fish. During our conversation I remembered that last year’s fish was several pounds under 20, and that when I was 12, his son’s age, a 20 lb. blue was a monster but not that hard to find. Another sign of many that fisheries are slowing down.
And so this weekend it was not a good time to be a blue — especially one large in size. Anglers on both shores, some who rarely fish at all, were gearing up and putting together wild and intricate game plans — loading their boats for shark and filling their tanks for a weekend of hunting “greasers”, as many party boats refer to bluefish because of their oily flesh. The result is a conglomeration of fisherman both skilled, professional, and clueless — all plying the same water with the same intentions. It makes for an interesting day.
So here is what I would do if I were to chase this prize toothy fish. Many people attempt to catch blues by looking for surface feeding fish or by “machining them” on specific pieces of bottom. The problem with this is that very often bluefish school in similar-sized groups. Occasionally you will get a larger one here or there but unless you find a school of gorillas, keep looking. Many people troll umbrella rigs, which are so effective it is almost cheating, and anglers will catch but most of the blues will be smaller in size.
During the day, I have seen larger fish taken by captains who troll large offerings in deep water around wrecks and open water. Very often big bluefish will roam apart from larger schools looking for food. Another good idea is find a nice ledge and set up so the tide pushes your bait into the shallow water. Start a chum slick, and once you have the blues coming they will stay; you will pull them from far down tide of where you are anchored. You don’t need to chum heavily but you do need it to be consistent and keep the flavor in the water.
This strategy changes quite a bit at night and in my opinion the best bet for big bluefish is to anchor up over a wreck. Bluefish actively feed at night and will swarm over a wreck for shelter and to munch on any smaller fish that live there. Very often blues will above the actual structure in a series of wavy, angled lines but, like sharks, some blues will circle as far out as 100 yards feeding on foraging porgies and sea-bass. If you do anchor up on a wreck you want to anchor up-tide so the scent wafts around the structure. Always use fresh bait, bunker is best, that is neatly cut in wedges so it doesn’t spin. These offerings are really just Post-it notes of time-proven and intricate practices and with some of this knowledge I hope a big blue will find your line.
Many people think that fishing is a great deal of luck but a quick glance at the winners of the past show that the majority of the anglers that catch the big one knew from experience just where to look.
The Captain Bob Fishing Fleet is located at 5675 W. Mill Road in Mattituck. For information on the fishing fleet, charter boats and dinner and sunset cruises, call (631) 298-5522 or go to the fleet’s Facebook page.