The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is the only extant species of the Pomatomidae family. It is a marine pelagic fish found around the world in temperate and tropical waters. Bluefish are known as tailor in Australia, shad on the east coast of South Africa, and elf on the west coast. Other common names are blue, chopper, and anchoa. It is good eating and a popular gamefish.
The bluefish is a moderately proportioned fish, with a broad, forked tail. The spiny first dorsal fin is normally folded back in a groove, as are its pectoral fins. Coloration is a grayish blue-green dorsally, fading to white on the lower sides and belly. Its single row of teeth in each jaw are uniform in size, knife-edged and sharp. Bluefish commonly range in size from seven-inch (18-cm) "snappers" to much larger, sometimes weighing as much as 40 pounds (18 kg), though fish heavier than twenty pounds (9 kg) are exceptional.
Bluefish are widely distributed around the world in tropical and subtropical waters. They are found in pelagic waters on much of the continental shelves along eastern America (though not between between the south of Florida and the north of South America), Africa, the Mediterranean, south east Asia and Australia. They are typically found in clear energetic waters near surf beaches or by rock headlands. They also enter estuaries and inhabit brackish waters. Periodically, they leave the coasts and migrate in schools through open waters.
Bluefish are found off Florida in the winter months. By April, they have disappeared, heading north. By June, they may be found off Massachusetts; in years of high abundance, stragglers may be found as far north as Nova Scotia. By October, they leave New England waters, heading south. They are also present in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year.
Adult bluefish are typically between 20 and 60 cm long, with a maximum reported size of 120 cm and 14 kilograms. They reproduce during spring and summer, and can live for up to nine years. Bluefish fry are zooplankton, and are largely at the mercy of currents. Spent bluefish have been found off east central Florida, migrating north. As with most marine fish, their spawning habits are not well known. In the western side of the North Atlantic, there are at least two populations, separated by Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. The Gulf Stream can carry fry spawned to the south of Cape Hatteras to the north, and eddies can spin off, carrying them into populations found off the coast of the mid-Atlantic, and the New England states.
|Bluefish blitz – YouTube|
|Bluefish Feeding Frenzy – YouTube|
|Fishing for Gator Bluefish – YouTube|
Blue fish are strong and aggressive fish which live in loose groups. They are fast swimmers which prey on schools of forage fish, and continue attacking them in feeding frenzies even after they appear to have eaten their fill. Depending on area and season, they favor menhaden and other sardine-like fish (Clupeidae), jacks (Scombridae), weakfish (Sciaenidae), grunts (Haemulidae), striped anchovies (Engraulidae), shrimp and squid. They are are cannibalistic and can destroy their own young. Bluefish sometimes chase bait through the surf zone, attacking schools in very shallow water, churning the water like a washing machine. This behavior is sometimes referred to as a "bluefish blitz".
In turn, bluefish are preyed upon by larger predators at all stages of their life cycle. As juveniles, they fall victim to a wide variety of oceanic predators, including striped bass, larger bluefish, fluke (summer flounder), weakfish, tuna, sharks, rays, and dolphins. As adults, bluefish are taken by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and many other species.
Bluefish should be handled with caution due to their ability to snap at unwary hands. Fishermen have been severely bitten, and it can help to wear gloves. It a not good idea to wade or swim among feeding bluefish schools. In July 2006, a 7 year-old girl was attacked on a beach, near the Spanish town of Alicante, allegedly by a bluefish.
As can be seen on the capture chart at the right, the bluefish population is highly cyclical, with abundance varying widely over a span of ten years or more.
Bluefish is a highly sought-after sportfish that had been overfished in some areas,[where?] but restrictions set forth by management organizations have helped the species population grow.
- CAAB taxon report for Pomatomus saltatrix at the CSIRO
- "Bluefish Identification". http://www.landbigfish.com/fish/fish.cfm?ID=49. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2006). "Pomatomus saltatrix" in FishBase. March 2006 version.
- Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus, 1766) FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved October 2012.
- Schultz, Ken (2009) Ken Schultz's Essentials of Fishing John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470444313.
- Lovko, Vincent J. (2008) Pathogenicity of the Purportedly Toxic Dinoflagellates Pfiesteria Piscicida and Pseudopfiesteria Shumwayae and Related Species ProQuest. ISBN 9780549882640.
- "Un depredador rápido y muy voraz con dientes de sierra (in Spanish)" El País, July 14, 2006
- Based on data sourced from the FishStat database
- Ulanski, Stan (2011) Fishing North Carolina's Outer Banks University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807872079.
- Bluefish FishWatch, NOAA. Retrieved 5 October 2012.