Fishermen Are Asking, 'Where Are the Bluefish?' Here's One Theory

Jul 27, 2018

"Where are the bluefish?" It's a puzzler. Most years, blues are as plentiful as squirrels on the village green, popping up where they aren't wanted, a nuisance to fishermen targeting more glamorous species like striped bass.

Not this year.

While some fishermen might say that's no loss, there are many anglers who look forward to catching bluefish, both for the fantastic fight they offer (they leap from the water as you reel them in), and for the eating. Smoked bluefish, anyone?

And then there's simply the environmental concern: if the bluefish go missing, what does that mean? 

Jimmy Fee, of On The Water magazine, offers one theory about the mysterious absence of these toothy predators.

"Blue fish populations are cyclical," Fee said. "In Frank Daignault's books about surf fishing on outer Cape Cod, he said, back when he was starting fishing out there in the 50s and 60s, somebody would catch a bluefish, and nobody on the beach would know what it was. So they definitely have these periods of scarcity."

So perhaps, until now, we've just been experiencing a prolonged period of abundance. Fee said, "It seems like they've been almost a constant presence for the past… well, for as long as I've been fishing. For the past 30 years."

Bluefish aren't commercially fished at a level that would put a lot of pressure on the species. And they aren’t being decimated by recreational fishermen; on any given year, the recreational catch never approaches the quota limits.  

“Overfishing is not occurring,” Fee said. “I think it's more just the vagaries of their population cycle. They’re offshore spawners. That means, if the conditions offshore aren't right on consecutive seasons, you could see this kind of dip in the population. If you have a year where the water's too cold, or it's too hot out there, then you're going to have bad bluefish numbers.”

Also in this week's Fishing News, we round up the local action, including tips for finding fluke. It's all in the audio posted above. Give it a listen.