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Bluefish

Life History

Bluefish are the only members of the family, Pomatomidae, and are closely related to jacks, pompanos, and roosterfish. Bluefish are greenish blue with a sturdy compressed body, a large head, and sharp, triangular teeth. They are found throughout the world and are a migratory species that range from Nova Scotia to Florida off the Atlantic coast and can be found in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas. Along the east coast, bluefish migrate northward in the spring and summer and southward in the fall and winter. During the summer, bluefish are concentrated from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and during the winter, most tend to be offshore and south between Cape Hatteras and Florida.

Bluefish are a pelagic schooling species that primarily travel in groups of like-sized fish. Most bluefish mature by age 2 (approximately 14½ inches), and females can produce from 900,000 to 4,500,000 eggs. Spawning and larval development takes place offshore in the South Atlantic (North Carolina to Florida) in the spring and to a lesser extent in the summer and fall, and in the mid-Atlantic during the summer. In Chesapeake Bay, peak spawning occurs offshore in July. After they spawn, bluefish move inshore with smaller fish generally entering Chesapeake and Delaware Bay and larger ones moving northward. Juvenile bluefish grow quickly and by late fall, there are usually two size groups along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts. Those fish that were spawned in the south during the spring are 6-8 inches, whereas those spawned in the summer are 2-4 inches. Most juvenile bluefish spawned in the south during the summer in the mid-Atlantic and in the fall in the South Atlantic remain in the coastal waters, but some summer-spawned fish do enter the lower Bay for a couple of months before they return to the coast in the fall and join the adults in their move southward.

Bluefish are voracious predators and sight feeders; they will strike at almost any object in the water column. Consequently, they feed on a variety of fish and invertebrates, including butterfish, menhaden, herring, sand lances, silversides, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, weakfish, spotted seatrout, croaker, spot and squid. In Chesapeake Bay and other estuarine habitats, bluefish primarily feed on bay anchovies, white perch, American shad, alewife and blueback herring, and striped bass.

Chesapeake Bay Management

Maryland has had a Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Chesapeake Bay in place since 1990, and its goal is to protect and monitor the bluefish resource in the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and the state coastal waters, to provide long-term ecological, economic, and social benefits. In order to meet this goal, this FMP followed the guidelines recommended by the coastal management Plan. This coastal Plan was established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) in 1989. Major provisions of this Plan included a bag limit of five to 15 fish per day per fisher for the recreational fishery and a quota system to be implemented if the commercial fishery began to catch more than 20% of the landings. In 1994, due to declining bluefish stocks, the Commission and the Council restricted the possession of bluefish by anglers to not more than 10 fish/person/boat/day. Also, each state (except Georgia, South Carolina, and Maine) had to restrict its commercial fishery to the quota adopted under procedures specified in the Plan since commercial landings now exceed 20% of total landings. The Commission and the Council have committed to developing an amendment to the current Plan to address the continuing decline in the bluefish stock and the allocation of the bluefish resource between recreational and commercial fishers. Amendment 1 to the Bluefish Plan, approved in October 1998, modifies the overfishing definition for bluefish and provides a number of commercial and recreational management measures that could be used to conserve the bluefish resource. The Amendment also establishes a nine-year rebuilding schedule, commercial quota system, and a recreational harvest limit. For more information on coastal bluefish management and other species visit the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) web site.

Creel limits and size limits were implemented by the Bay jurisdictions as part of the Chesapeake Bay Bluefish Fishery FMP in 1991. The Bay jurisdictions are in compliance with the Commission/Council recommendations for bluefish. For current minimum size and creel limits, please check our updated commercial and recreational regulations information.

Biologists from the Maryland DNR (MDNR) Fisheries Service MULTIFISH project sample five summer migrant fish species, including bluefish, summer flounder, weakfish, Atlantic croaker, and spot, each year from four commercial pound nets in the mid and lower Chesapeake Bay from June through September. Bluefish are removed from the nets and sexed, total lengths are measured, and scale samples are taken. This data assesses the stock status of bluefish in the Bay and is used to prepare fishery management plans for Chesapeake Bay, the Commission and the Council.

Biologists from the MDNR Fisheries Service Striped Bass Project also conduct a juvenile survey that documents annual variation in year-class success for young-of-the-year (YOY) striped bass and many other finfish, including juvenile bluefish. Annual indices of relative abundance provide an early indicator of future adult stock recruitment. These indices document annual variation and long-term trends in abundance and distribution and are useful in the evaluation and management of many Chesapeake Bay finfish species and their habitats.

Commercial and Recreational Fisheries

Bluefish are among the most abundant and frequently caught food and sport fishes along the Atlantic coast and support important commercial and recreational fisheries. However, recent evaluation of the bluefish stock indicates that it is at a low level of abundance and is over-exploited. \r\nAlthough the recreational landings of bluefish are approximately 5-6 times greater than the commercial landings, the commercial fishery is an important one. Bluefish are harvested entirely for the fresh market. The predominant commercial gear type used in harvesting bluefish from the Bay has been pound nets; however, gill nets, otter trawls, haul seines, and hand lines have also been used. Most bluefish are commercially harvested from May to October in Chesapeake Bay. Commercial harvest of bluefish from the Bay has been decreasing from 233,351 pounds in 1991 to 88,584 pounds in 1997. The 1997 commercial bluefish fishery operated under a quota of 274,373 pounds; however, the quota for 1998 has not yet been announced.

The mid-Atlantic region (New Jersey to Virginia) has traditionally harvested 80% or more of the total bluefish landings from the entire Atlantic coast. Maryland harvests about 3-5% of the mid-Atlantic total. Bluefish caught commercially from Maryland and Virginia are mainly taken from Chesapeake Bay, with ocean landings accounting for only a small percentage.

Bluefish are well know to anglers as an incredible fighter with tremendous biting power. They are a highly prized fish and the most sought-after species among recreational fishermen during May through October in Chesapeake Bay. Approximately 90% of the bluefish harvested in Maryland are caught by sport fishermen. Recreational harvest was in the millions of pounds and fish in the 1980s, but since 1992, it has only been in the thousands of pounds and fish. Maryland bluefish recreational harvest for 1996 was 555,169 pounds


To book your trip aboard Light Tackle Charters call Captain Walt at (410) 957-1664 or email him from this site! Remember, your date is not "booked" until a deposit has been recieved.

Light Tackle Charters
2630 Cambrook Drive
Pocomoke City, MD 21851

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You may bring your own fly, spinning, casting or trolling outfits. I recommend different outfits of different size & weights dependent upon the time of year and the species we'll be stalking. Just talk with me (via phone or e-mail) prior to the trip and I'll be happy to make recommendations...