Bluefish

Bluefish

The only member of the Pomatomidae family, the bluefish is an extremely voracious and cannibalistic saltwater fish.

Identification

The body shape is fairly long, stout, and compressed, with a flat-sided belly. The mouth is large and has extremely sharp, flattened, and triangular teeth. The first dorsal fin is low and short, the second dorsal fin is long, and the anal fin has two spines and 25 to 27 soft rays.

The coloring is greenish or bluish on the back and silvery on the sides; a distinguishing characteristic is a dark blotch at the base of the pectoral fins. The tail is dusky and deeply forked, and, with the exception of the whitish pelvic fins, most of the fins are dark.


Size/Age

Bluefish can grow to about 45 inches in length and more than 44 pounds in weight. They average 1.5 to 2 feet and 3 pounds, although it’s not uncommon for a fish to weigh around 11 pounds. The rod-and-reel record is a 31-pound, 12-ounce fish. They live for about 12 years.

Life history/Behavior

Atlantic coast bluefish spawn mainly in the spring in the South Atlantic Bight and during summer in the Middle Atlantic Bight. Bluefish migrate out to open sea to spawn, anywhere from 2 miles offshore to the continental platform.

The eggs are released and drift along with plankton in surface waters, hatching about 48 hours after fertilization. Adult bluefish are commonly found in schools, especially when foraging on schools of baitfish, menhaden in particular. Along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, bluefish migrate northward in the spring and southward in the fall.

Food and feeding habits

Insatiable predators, bluefish feed on a wide variety of fish and invertebrates but target schools of menhaden, mackerel, and herring. They feed in large groups, viciously attacking schools of smaller fish.

Other Names

blue, tailor, elf, chopper, marine piranha, rock salmon, snapper blue, snapper, Hatteras blue, skipjack (Australia), shad (South Africa); French: tassergal; Japanese: amikiri; Portuguese: anchova, enchova; Spanish: anjova, anchova de banco.

Distribution

Found worldwide in most temperate coastal regions, bluefish inhabit the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia and Canada to Bermuda and Argentina. They are rare between southern Florida and northern South America.

Habitat

Favoring temperate to tropical waters, bluefish range along rocky coasts and in deep, troubled waters, although they are known to be sporadic, if not cyclical, in occurrence and location. The young are often found in bays and estuaries. Adults migrate along coastal areas and are caught from the beach by surf anglers, on shoals and rips inshore, or farther offshore.
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