New England"s bluefish stocks are on the rise and fishing was better than ever last season. Here"s a look at where to find exciting rod-bending action near you this summer.
Photo by John Gribb
New England"s fabled bluefish fishery is coming back strong. Though we"re still not back to the glory days of the 1980s, most reports from last year showed blues smashing bait all along the New England coast.
Arthur Ganz, supervising marine biologist for Rhode Island"s Department of Environmental Management Marine Fisheries Division, could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the fishing in his home waters.
"Blues arrived on time, stayed late and blitzed everywhere," he said.
Bluefish generally follow schools of mackerel into Maine"s waters, but how far they progress up the coast is uncertain.
Robert Watts, a field staffer for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said that the 2004 bluefish run was about normal, with fish coming into the Boothbay region and the mouth of the Kennebec River. The most popular spot to intercept them on the Kennebec is Popham Beach. The landing at Phippsburg off Route 209 about halfway from Bath to Popham is a good launching choice.
Surfcasters can drive down Route 209 to Fort Popham, just beyond Popham Beach State Park, and join the crowd on the beachfront. Even when the blues are not in, Popham is a productive surf spot, with lots of boat-anglers trolling just beyond the reach of the surfcasters" longest throws.
The best odds for finding Maine bluefish are from Casco Bay south, where the largest fish are often found by trolling around the offshore islands and rockpiles. Several landings in the Freeport to Portland region service the bay, with one on Route 88 in Falmouth Foreside offering a direct route east.
The next bay south, Saco Bay, especially the area around the mouth of the Saco River, is another perennial favorite. Walk-in anglers can park at Camp Ellis, while boat-anglers launch at the large state boat landing off Route 9 in Biddeford.
For more information, contact Maine"s Department of Marine Resources at (207) 624-9500.
NEW HAMPSHIRE HOTSPOTS
Blues showed up last year in above-normal numbers at the usual New Hampshire hotspots, according to Doug Grout, a New Hampshire marine biologist. The Isles of Shoals, a cluster of small islands seven miles off Portsmouth, is the standard for consistent action, but the location makes getting there a problem. A seaworthy craft is a must.
A good starting spot is the back or east side of the island group. The Isles of Shoals can be reached from any landing along the New Hampshire coast.
To work the mouth of the Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor, launch at the gravel landing in downtown Portsmouth"s historic Strawberry Banke area. Just beyond the Strawberry Banke headquarters building, turn left and cross the bridge to Pierce Island. The boat landing is across from the commercial fish pier. Other than the harbor itself, other popular spots include the rocky ledges along Odiorne Point on the south side and in front of Sewards Point on the Maine side.
Most years, the blues work into Great Bay and Little Bay, which are easily accessed from Dover Point Landing at Exit 5 off the Spaulding Turnpike. Searching along the north shore from the Bellamy River around to Adams Point will be productive.
Hampton Harbor, the scene of some good bluefish action last year, and Rye Harbor, have launching facilities for anglers who want to troll along the ocean side.
More information is available from New Hampshire"s Marine Fisheries Division at (603) 868-1095.
The long Massachusetts shoreline, plus Cape Cod and the islands, present a wide array of possibilities for New England"s bluefishermen. Beginning in the north, the area where the Merrimack River meets the ocean is a popular destination. Launching at the state launching ramp at the Salisbury Beach Reservation on Route 1A puts boaters at the mouth of the river.
Beach-anglers may cast from Salisbury Beach and the small jetty, but the big jetty is too dangerous. Most shore action takes place on the Plum Island side on the riverfront beach, the south jetty and the ocean-side beach. Boat-fishermen work the channel, between the jetties or along the beachfront with bait or trolled lures. Larger boats can easily cross to Cape Ann and the consistent Halibut Point and Thatcher"s Island areas.
North of Boston, Revere Beach, Lynn Harbor and the Saugus River mouth are full of possibilities. In the early part of the season, look for blues near the river mouths or offshore at the Boston Harbor "B" Buoy and The Graves. Near shore, many boaters target the Fauns Bar area.
Shore-bound anglers may work from the fishing pier at the General Edwards Bridge. On the backside of Winthrop, Court Road Beach across from Atlantic Marine and the Winthrop Marsh near the riprap at the narrow gauge Railroad Bridge are good spots. Revere Beach in front of the State Police Building provides good fishing at night, and Lynn Beach near the causeway riprap is also good. Fauns Bar is great for the boat-anglers, so it stands to reason that its pier is a good spot, too. The large state boat landing on Nahant Road at Lynn Harbor provides the main boat access for this area.
South of Boston, the oceanfront ledges around Scituate get a lot of attention. Peggotty Beach, between Second and Third cliffs, is filled with swimmers in the day but offers good fishing at night with clams and chunks of fresh fish. Boaters often troll offshore or cast toward the rocks or working birds.
Several other rockpiles, including Long Ledge, about one mile north of the harbor, the big bolder field off Egypt Beach and Cowans or Little Cowans are good targets for boating anglers. The Smith Rocks are also popular with anglers.
Boat access to Scituate Harbor and oceanfront is via the concrete ramp on Jericho Road at about the mid-point of the harbor.
Any rockpile on or near the south- facing side of Cape Cod can produce July blues.
Western Buzzards Bay is under- fished, but it has plenty of shallow rocky structure that is prime for blues as early as May 15. It has many of the same characteristics as southern Cape Cod, with its rocky points and outcroppings, shallow coves and bays, and tidal river estuaries that stretch into the interior.
Western Buzzards Bay is underfished, but it has plenty of shallow rocky structure that is prime for blues as early as May 15.
New Bedford has two state landings within a mile of each other, but they handle separate bodies of water. On the south side of the peninsula looking into Clark"s Cove is the Clark"s Cove landing on West Rodney French Boulevard. It features four fishing jetties and stretches of riprap that attract fish. Boaters should motor to the other side of Clark"s Cove and work along the rocky shoreline west of Moshers Point.
The Westport River landing, across the Route 88 bridge, is a large and popular access point for the Westport River system and Rhode Island Sound. The river system is shallow and dotted with islands, sandbars and rocks that provide great bluefish habitat. In addition to the harbor entrance, anglers should check the action around Gooseberry Island.
A saltwater fishing guide listing public access ramps, tackle shops and charter boats is available from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries by calling (508) 563-1779.
RHODE ISLAND HOTSPOTS
Biologist Arthur Ganz reported that the state"s south shore, from Watch Hill to Point Judith, was alive with blues last year, with consistent beach action along Quonochontaug Beach and boating action anywhere outside the Charlestown Breachway. There also were plenty of big fish in all the popular areas within Narragansett Bay.
Along the west passage, good spots include the rocks around Point Judith and Point Judith Harbor, Wickford Harbor, Brenton Point and Brenton Reef off Conanicut Island.
Farther up the bay, the water around Greenwich Bay and Conimicut Point and Barrington Beach were also recommended.
One of the most often used access points, which features plenty of parking, is the public ramp at Galilee. From Route 1, take Old Point Judith Road (Route 108) to Galilee Road. Turn right for the landing.
Additional information is available from the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Department at (401) 423-1920.
The limit is 10 bluefish per day. Blues are strong, aggressive fish with sharp teeth, so be prepared for battle!