Considering its size and ferocity, the toothy and powerful bluefish is an undervalued player on the local fishing front. Perhaps that's because of its relative abundance, or maybe it's because bluefish flesh pales in comparison to less "oily" tasting species such as fluke, stripers, porgy and sea bass. Either way, from a purely sport fishing perspective, the mighty chopper couldn't be a more worthy angling adversary.
"Anglers around here have given the blues all due respect over the past several days," said Mark Keller at Bay Park Fishing Station Thursday morning. "That's because there have been some real monsters showing up on the porgy and sea bass grounds around the Atlantic Beach Reef."
Keller has weighed or taken reports of several choppers topping 17 pounds recently. One angler from East Rockaway, Captain Joey Leggio, caught his two biggest bluefish ever on consecutive trips -- whoppers weighing 18.5 pounds and 20.50 pounds, respectively. Those are gorilla blues of the biggest kind.
"Man, these fish are incredible fighters," Leggio said. "The first monster I battled was on Saturday when the choppers began chasing the scup we were catching. I tied a diamond jig on my porgy rod and wrestled that one aboard. The second one I hooked when we decided to go back and hunt for the big blues on purpose. That was Tuesday and we found them between the Roundhouse and the west end of the Long Beach boardwalk. We had non-stop action using popping plugs in 25 feet of water, and we were entertained by breaching whales as well. It was just an incredible day of fishing."
While catching bluefish is rarely difficult, encounters with "gorillas" and "gators," as fish weighing in the high teens are called, have been less frequent in recent years, so you might want to get out and enjoy these bad boys while they remain in town.
"Huge blues showed up on the North Shore inside Manhasset Bay, too," said captain Steven Laura Fallon of the Port Washington charter boat Swedish Princess when we spoke Thursday. His fares this week tangled with several brutes topping 15 pounds, but none raised bigger smiles than the 17-pounder decked by Fallon's aptly named fiancée, Catherine Angler.
"The choppers here have been loading up on peanut bunker," Fallon said. "Most are 7- to 12-pounders and they are all really, really fat. Surface poppers work at daybreak but after that you'll need to fish bunker chunks if you want a lot of action."
Huge blues to 18 pounds were also caught on the Middle Grounds off Port Jefferson, and in 80-foot depths a bit east of Hortons Point.
Even though the gators are chomping, there are plenty of other options to tug at anglers' lines right now. Doormat fluke continue to come from Montauk's south side and the ocean waters off Shinnecock and Fire Island Inlets. Porgy action couldn't be better out of Greenport and Orient Point, on the South Shore Wrecks, and over by Crane's Neck in Long Island Sound. Moriches Bay offers great crabbing in its coves and mixed-bag catches of fluke, kingfish and triggers in the channels while stripers seem to have awakened in the rips at Orient and Montauk points.