THE MAYHEM OF MAY
May is the month that really kicks the spring striper run in the surf into gear. The rising temperatures get the resident Striped Bass more active, and they get the migrating fish on the move, looking to grab a quick meal on their journey up the coast. It’s also the time the bigger baitfish and concentrations of other baits show up in bays and inlets. However, one of my favorite parts of May is the arrival of “gator” bluefish. Big Blues invade local waters of the mid-Atlantic (Maryland to Long Island) and put on a spectacular “show” of voracious feeding that makes for exciting catching, especially on topwater.
Of course, catching big Striped Bass from the surf is my passion and nothing could ever replace that, but you have to love the fight and bite of these large bluefish. There is an absolute power in these fish that gets the blood pumping and makes any surf fishing outing rewarding and exciting. Blues are a great daytime fish for all anglers to enjoy. When they arrive, bluefish will bite consistently, so targeting them is much easier than Striped Bass. Fishing for Blues is a great way to get novice anglers and kids into the “feel” of catching fish in the surf. This action will give kids that instant gratification to keep them from getting bored.
When targeting bluefish, I concentrate on the hours around sunrise and sunset. This is when they seem to be most active. However, there are other times when they are so thick in the bays and inlets that you can catch them all day long. For me, this timing is great since it does not conflict with my targeting of Striped Bass during the night hours. Blue fishing is a great way to put in some “overtime” and get my line tight.
You’re probably asking, “Hey Bernie, what lures do you use to target these yellow eyed demons?” Poppers, both the Polaris type and pencil type are good choices, especially at sunset and sunrise. There is something awesome in watching a bluefish come up top and absolutely annihilate the plug. It’s also great to see the fish attacking right in front of you just before you feel the tug on the line. When it hits, “it’s on”, so enjoy the ride! I also like to throw S&S Bucktails, S&S Slimfish, diamond jigs, and the “old reliable” Hopkins.
No matter what lure I use, I reduce the number of hooks on my lures. The reduction of hooks- treble to single or double treble to single treble- results in a quicker release of the fish and lowers the risk of hooks getting lodged in your hands, waders, face etc. On my plugs I take off the belly hook and leave a single hook on the back. This does not result in any less “catching” as the bluefish chop at baits, attacking the back of the lure. You’ll want to change out any treble hooks on the back of your lures for single hooks and crush the barbs of your hooks for an even easier release. This also reduces the time your hands will be around the mouth of the fish as their teeth can do serious damage if you are bitten. Bluefish flop around non- stop, so the quicker you clear them from your lure the better your chances of having an enjoyable day without a trip to the emergency room!
In the end, bluefish “May” not be your favorite species to catch, but they offer you one of the best fights you can have with an inshore fish. Enjoy them while they’re here because the “Mayhem” won’t last. Bluefish will not be around in these concentrated numbers the rest of the season like they are in May. So get out in the surf and create some mayhem of your own, because they definitely are ready to do some damage. They don’t call them “the tackle shop’s best friend” for nothing. May you have many tightlines and few lost lures. Live the Passion! Tightlines!