other week, Ken Morse of Bay View Bait & Tackle in Sag Harbor
reported that he had been hearing reports about small bluefish
-- too small to be considered "cocktails," yet too large to
be called "snappers." Last week, Glenn Ophoff sent me an e-mail,
re-confirming the report. "I caught a little bluefish/snapper
out at Montauk while I was fluke fishing last Saturday," he
wrote. "If it weighed 1 pound, that was pushing it. There were
a few other little guys caught on the boat, as well. I was surprised
to see them."
We're all surprised to see such small bluefish at this time
of the year, so I checked with Byron Young of the New
York State Department of Environmental Conservation who
wasn't that surprised at all.
"We see them every once in a while," he said. Byron identified
the baby blues as "year-plus fish," meaning that they were hatched
in 1999, and are not part of some freakish millennium spawn.
"Bluefish spawn on the Continental Shelf," he explained. "The
major spawn is off the Carolinas in April. The secondary spawn
is off our New York and New Jersey coastline and sometimes there's
a third spawn off Cape Cod, but that doesn't happen every year.
This year's Carolina bluefish fry are about 1 to 2 inches by
After they put on a few inches, bluefish fry come inshore --
the "snappers" we're used to seeing in late August and September.
They'll move offshore in the fall and usually remain offshore
until they are two years old. "This time," Byron said, "last
year's Carolina spawn came inshore one year early."
Interestingly, most bluefish length/weight comparison charts
begin with 2-year-old fish, not 1 year olds.
added that the prevailing winds have a lot to do with baby bluefish
migration patterns. Sustained westerly winds will push the "snappers"
out, and an easterly flow of air will bring them to the coastline
A 2-year-old bluefish is generally around 13 to 14 inches long
and weighs a little over 2 pounds. The 4-pound "cocktails" we've
been seeing a lot of around Long Island this spring are three
The largest bluefish ever caught in New York waters is Peter
Weber, Jr.'s 25-pounder, caught aboard the Bluefin IV out of
Montauk in October of 1998. A 19-pound 12-ounce slammer leads
the list in the IGFA's fly rod division. It was caught on a
16-pound test tippet off Nags Head, North Carolina, in November
of 1987. In fact, only four of the
IGFA's saltwater fly rod tippet class bluefish records in
the new 2000 edition of World Record Game Fishes in both the
Men's and Women's divisions are for blues caught outside of
the fall season, so keep in mind that a fat, fall bluefish that
has been stuffing itself with bunker can put on the pounds rather
quickly and the weight comparisons for the larger 'gators may
be somewhat off come September. As for those "year-plus snappers"
-- they've been popping up on the East End inside of the stomachs
of larger fluke, and stripers might also find them to be tasty
treats. Their lengths are from around 6 to 10 inches, so when
all else fails, try breaking out the big, fall patterns.