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Would you believe me if I told you I caught a record bluefish? The sad part is that I did not realize it at the time and ate it.
This was a number of years ago up on Cape Cod and my folks were still living there. Mom had a reputation for her fishing skill, and when she saw my prized bluefish she said, “We will get some huge fillets out of that one!”
She was right, the fillets were huge, in fact bigger than some of the bluefish that are being caught today. In my early days of saltwater fishing I spent many weekends chasing bluefish, both on the Cape Cod and in Long Island Sound with an old fishing buddy Len Chudzik. During these fishing forays we caught some good sized bluefish but nothing compared to the one I landed on the Cape.
However, back then the bluefish were so plentiful little attention was paid to their size unless you were in a fishing contest and from the various bluefish I have seen over the years the one on the Cape was a record (at least in my mind).
I had journeyed up to the Cape to see my parents and as I usually did I stopped at a few of the fishing spots to see how the surfcasters were doing. At one spot the beach was littered with dead bluefish that were simply left to rot in the sun or taken back into the sea by the receding tide.
This disturbing sight was not at all unusual back in the heydays of bountiful fishing for bluefish.
The striper fishing was good, but it was the bluefish that provided the most fishing action. Swarms of bluefish would come into the beach areas chasing bait and when this happened even the most novice of anglers would catch all the bluefish they wanted.
But then came the sad part. Instead of bringing them home to be consumed by family and friends, they took only what they could carry (usually two) and left the others to rot on the beach. This was also the case right here in Connecticut with many species like flounder being overfished with no limit on size or numbers and this has resulted in the strict limits in size and numbers that we experience today.
As for my ‘record’ bluefish, I went to one of the beaches on the next incoming tide and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had the area to myself. I rigged up one pole with a couple of sand eels and stuck the rod into a ‘sand spike’ (a tube that you sick into the sand to hold your rod up so you could see when you had a strike, especially if you were fishing with more than one rod).
I then began to rig up my other surfrod for some lure casting and for some unknown reason I glanced over to my rod in the sand spike and saw that the rod was now out of the spike and heading back into the water!
I raced into the surf just in time to grab my runaway fishing rod. Upon retrieving it, I set the hook and the battle was on.
At first I figured I had hooked up with a prized striped bass, but after a lengthy battle I beached a huge bluefish, but like I said records other than eating it never came into my mind at that time. Even my mother who had caught many fish on the Cape was amazed at the size of it, but was more interested in the fillets we would get out of the huge fish.
Was it truly a record bluefish? After years of seeing some of the bluefish that have been caught here and on the Cape I really think so, but since it can never be proven there is no sense in giving it much thought. However, it does make for a terrific fishing memory and isn’t that what fishing is supposed to be all about?
They say that, ‘Ignorance is bliss’ and this really rings true when it comes to bluefish as table fare. One of the biggest complaints is that they taste fishy”. What do they expect them to taste like, steak?
Regarding the quality of any fish or game, the care you give them after they are harvested goes a long way in the quality you will experience when you consume them.
Bluefish should be kept cool and out of the direct rays of the sun when caught. Nothing will spoil the taste of a bluefish quicker than to be left out in the hot sunlight.
To prove my point, one day I was fishing for snapper blues (baby bluefish) down on the South Cove roadway and a young fisherman next to me was fishing for the larger bluefish and doing quite well.
It was hot day and he simply laid the bluefish on the pavement by him and continued to fish while the sun literally baked the bluefish on the pavement. He offered me a couple by I politely turned him down.
Taken care of properly (kept cold or refrigerated), I prize bluefish for consumption. I fillet them and take the skin off them and sometime even cut away that dark swim muscle in the fillet. Fresh caught bluefish are best for frying and yes, they might have a fishy odor when cooking, but hey, you are cooking fish.
Ken Statske, an old fishing buddy that I also worked with once told me he would never eat bluefish. I brought some into work that I had cooked and he would not believe that he was eating bluefish it was that good.
One of the best things that ever happened to the sport of fishing of bluefish is the 10-fish per angler limit regardless if they are fishing for snapper or adult bluefish. More on that later, gotta run. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our great country.