So you thought the day would never come. No more big bluefish.
Well, you're wrong -- big-time. The blues are here with a vengeance. Just get one wrapped around your axle, and you'll see.
There is much more to trolling than just pulling lures behind your boat. Big bluefish, just like big rockfish or big any kind of fish,got that way by being smarter than the rest of the pack. You seldom see them in a feeding frenzy as you do the smaller bluefish, so the probability of their smacking a lure dragged carelessly behind your boat is not great. You must troll that lure, not just drag it through the water.
Trolling is the art of presenting a lure in a life-like manner so as to entice a fish to strike. The elements that make up successful trolling are speed, depth and hardware.
Just about everyone knows which lures to use. The big bluefish followed the big menhaden, a type of bait fish, into the Chesapeake Bay. The idea is to replicate a 6- to 12-inch menhaden.
My favorite lure for the real big bluefish is either the 11/0 or 9/0 Crippled Alewive; next is the 11/0Cathers. I haven't used a No. 21 Tony in years, although it is a popular lure. The big No. 34 1/2 and 34 Huntington Drone are also effective but not really popular here for some reason, even though their home is Annapolis.
None of these lures is worth a damn unless the hooks are sharp. If that big hook does not cut a grove in your thumb nail when dragged across it, the hook is not sharp enough. I start out on a grinder and then finish up by hand with a good file.
The old saying, "Even a blind hog finds an occasional acorn," is true. Evenif you don't know how to troll, you'll occasionally get a lure in front of a fish and he'll strike. But if your hooks aren't sharp, you'll never land him.
Presentation is important. If the lure doesn't look real, this smart old fish isn't going to bang it. At the end of your trolling line, tie on a cross lock-type snap swivel. This snap will not come open by accident. Next, use in-line trolling weights, which go through the water with minimum resistance and give off few bubbles. Save the drop-sinker weights for later in the year.
Use long leaders; for big fish, I use 40-footers. I start my leader with a cross lock ball-bearing swivel. About mid-way, I add a barrel-type ball-bearing swivel, and I tie the lure to the leader. This makes for an expensive rig, so be careful not to lose any.
Your presentation canbe perfect and your hooks razor sharp, but if you don't get the lurenear the fish, you still won't catch them. You've got to put the lures where the fish are. When the fish first appear, they are usually either on top or on the bottom. That is, you will find them between the surface and 10 feet down or down below 20 feet. As the water warms, the fish expand their area.
This is one of the few times during the year that I use something other than wire trolling line. I will run two to four lines with 30- or 40-pound test Dacron line and two tofour ounces of weight. This will put the lure very close to the surface. I will also run two to four wire lines with 12- to 20-ounce weights.
You can use these techniques for trolling rockfish or bluefish, but speed will make the difference. A big old rockfish prefers a slower bait. You'll have to experiment a bit.
Big bluefish -- like big rockfish -- will be scattered, but if you happen to hit one, I'd invest a bit more time in that area. Keep your hooks in the water. Once you've got your stuff together, you just need to get one of those sharp hooks in front of their nose. Good luck!
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.