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Can You Eat a Bluefish?

The bluefish is the only surviving species of the Pomatomidae family. Earlier gnome fishes were also included in the family Pomatomidae. However, now they are classified under a separate fish family, Scombridae. Scientifically called Pomatomus saltatrix, bluefish is a saltwater pelagic fish that is found in the subtropical and temperate ocean across the globe except for the northern Pacific waters. Bluefish is known by different names in different countries like shad and elf in South Africa, a tailor in New Zealand, and Australia. It is a well-preferred food fish as well as sport fish in such countries. 

The bluefish is a roughly proportioned fish having a forked, wide tail. The upper or the dorsal fin is prickly and thorny and is creased back in a hollow cut just like its inner fins. Bluefish is mainly greyish-blue in color having green dorsal appearance. The color fades to white towards the lower parts and the belly region. The teeth rows and size in both jaws are uniform, sharp, and knife-edged. Normally they range from seven inches to more and exceptionally weighing about 18kg. 

Bluefish Habitat and Distribution

Bluefish can be found extensively in equatorial and continental water bodies. More specifically, bluefish are found in deep-sea waters of the continental shelves of Africa, Southeast Asia, east America, Mediterranean, and black sea and Australia, excluding the water region between northern South America and South Florida. Not only in deep-sea waters, but also above continental shelves, by rock headlands and sometimes in the dynamic waters near beaches, one can spot bluefish. Apart from living in various coastal habitats, they enter estuaries and settle in the saline waters. During migratory seasons, they withdraw from the seashores and drift in large numbers through flowing waters. 

Especially in summer months, they migrate in schools from warm waters to subtropical water bodies. When it’s summer, you can find bluefish in concentrations from Maine to Cape Hatteras and North Carolina. During winters, they travel offshore and inhabit the south waters between Florida and Cape Hatteras. When April approaches, they disappear from there and head towards to North. By June, one can find them off Massachusetts. In some years, they can even be found in the far north in Nova Scotia. Again, when winter arrives, they leave the cool water bodies of the US coast and head towards the warm southern waters. 

Every female bluefish lays between 400,000 to 2 million eggs. The eggs take two years to mature. Females give birth in open sea waters. There, the larvae grow and mature into juveniles. After completion of this stage in the process of development, females migrate in schools and enter estuaries and settle in seashores. Generally, their lifespan is of 14 years. They are insatiable feeders and feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton found below or near water surfaces. Also, they attack menhaden, squid, and other tiny forage fishes to kill their appetite. To learn more about Bluefish, information is available on the NOAA Fisheries website.

Can You Eat a Bluefish? 

Yes, you can eat a Bluefish. The flesh of a raw bluefish has a light putty color, sometimes even bluish-grey with a tinge of brown. The color becomes lighter when it’s cooked. People are advised to remove a dark peel, strongly flavored skin on the fillet. The meat of bluefish is moist, strong, rich flavored one with edible skin. One can consume bluefish in various ways. The bigger the size of the bluefish, the better the taste. Also, the bigger the fish, the easier it is to remove the small bones.

One can either poach or bake a bluefish. It can even be smoked. However, one must refrigerate the fish for quite some time and consume it soon after buying it. There are various recipes regarding how to cook bluefish. It can be cooked into several dishes in several ways. Some recipes need the fish to be dipped in wine and vinegar before cooking. Remember that besides being rich in omega 3 fatty acids, bluefish also have high levels of PCBs and mercury. For this reason, children and pregnant women are prohibited from consuming them. 

Bluefish of a smaller size known as snapper blues are usually fried as they are not too moist and oily. Because of the high amount of fats present in their bodies, bluefish gets rotten fast. That’s why one can easily locate them close to fisheries as they feed on forage fishes. Where they are found in abundance, they are available at cheaper rates. 

How to Cook a Bluefish

As we said, you must cook bluefish as soon as you purchase it. Else, it might get rotten. Because of its reactive enzymes, bluefish deteriorate rapidly, if not refrigerated immediately. Also, you need to deep freeze it to ensure that it freezes well. If you are unable to cook it immediately, you can cook it within a day of buying it. If you are a true fish lover, you will love the strong, rich flavour of it. The taste even gets enhanced if seasoned with acidic ingredients like lemon juice, lime, tomato, etc. However, if you want to keep the dish simple, you can brush the fillet with mayonnaise or mustard and broil it. You can even roast, grill, or bake it according to your food preferences. Larger bluefish are too oily and can be baked entirely. Smaller ones can only be fried. 

What to look for while choosing Fresh Bluefish Fillet

While looking for a bluefish, keep the following things in mind: 

  • Choose a fillet having a pale putty shade to bluish-grey color with a touch of brown
  • If the fillet appears dried, don’t buy it
  • Also, check if the bluefish has a light sea breeze aroma. That scent indicates that it’s fresh
  • The fish should have shiny eyes and should appear bright and clean
  • Scales should be clinging to the skin tightly. Check if they are easily removable. If yes, don’t buy it
  • Make sure the fillets and steaks are wet with shiny and firm meat
  • Press the meat. If it springs back, it’s fresh

Bluefish Fishing Tips

Bluefish swim in large schools, chasing the schools of the baits. Bluefish have different schools, based on their age. Every bluefish belonging to the same group has the same size. One can catch bluefish by placing artificial lures or by trolling. Cut baits are especially effective when it comes to fishing them. Because they have pointed, the sharp teeth, using wire leaders is a useful preventive measure often used by anglers. 

Bluefish can strike and attack anything, including humans. So taking every prevention is important while you catch them. There are several fishing methods adopted to catch bluefish, like casting, chumming, jigging, trolling, or casting artificial baits from piers, shores, or boats. The best live baits for bluefish are Shrimp, Squid, Mullet, Menhaden, ladyfish, bunker, and eels. Natural live baits are best in this case, but if they aren’t available, one can also use artificial lures, feathers, or plugs. Nothing can beat the excitement and thrill of capturing a bluefish on a topwater lure. When fishing at dusk or dawn, using a noisy lure would be more effective.

One can either use a fish finder rig or a fireball rig for fishing bluefish. If you are looking forward to keeping some of your catch on display, refrigerate them immediately and then keep on display. The best way to cook delicious bluefish recipe is by filleting them. Young ones are good when smoked or baked. 

Fishing for Juvenile Blues (Blue Snappers)

Fishing for snappers that is young blues is a thrilling experience. They can be spotted in water areas towards the beginning of June. They become about 6 inches, growing rapidly by the end of August when they are mostly targeted. Feeding upon local silversides, these young juveniles become 10 inches when they start to migrate towards the south in late September. Catching these young ones isn’t tough at all. You just need to spot them and place a bait. Mostly, they are found around marinas and docks and in tidal marshes and creeks. Often anglers can’t differentiate and are found catching weakfish when baiting for snappers. Both are similar, but weakfishes grow to a restricted size, blues don’t. Therefore it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two. The prime difference is their tails, blues have thorny tails, while weakfishes have arrow-headed, silvery colored tails. 

Bluefish Feeding Habits 

Mature and old bluefish are aggressive and strong and live in loosely packed schools. They swim faster than females and new ones and feed heavily on forage fishes and continue to eat them even after having eaten their fillets completely. They prey on various forage fishes depending on the region and season. Sometimes they prey on weakfish, sardine-like fishes or sometimes they feed on jacks, Striped anchovies, squid, shrimps, or grunts. They have a huge appetite and often destroy their young ones to satiate their hunger. 

They are strictly cannibalistic. They run after their baits through surface waters, stirring the water like a washing machine. This tendency of them is known as a bluefish blitz. Alluding to the stages of a lifecycle, they are preyed upon by larger fishes. The young ones fall prey to a wide range of oceanic beings like larger bluefish, striped bass, weakfish, sharks, dolphins, fluke, tuna, and rays. Adult ones are eaten by sharks, billfish, tuna, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, seals, and various other oceanic species.

Often times, bluefish being inherently aggressive, have attacked fishermen. It’s advisable not to get close to a feeding school of bluefish. They are at their most barbaric forms, full of hunger in such times and hence can bite or attack anyone who is nearby. 

What are the Health Benefits of Eating a Bluefish?

Rich in vitamin D and fatty acids, some studies even show that bluefish checks the growth and spread of cancerous cells and colon thus helping people get cured of breast cancer and other diseases. People consuming bluefish frequently have lesser chances of suffering from any type of cancer. People can have a bluefish every week, roughly. To get the maximum health benefits, bake or grill it without using too much oil because oil deprives the dish of the vitamins present. 

We have discussed below some of the general benefits of consuming bluefish. 

  • They are rich in Vitamins and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You already know that bluefish are rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the healthy development of a baby. Infants and childbearing women are always advised to take fish, in their daily diet. One bluefish every week would be sufficient in this context. The high vitamin and essential fat content of bluefish help in stimulating the overall growth of babies. 

  • They are rich in calcium

The importance of Calcium for the formation and development of our bones is universally known. Bluefish provides you with the required body Calcium. Not only will it increase bone density, but it also will keep the muscle tissue healthy and in good shape. 

  • They have high iodine content 

If you suffer from iodine deficiency, bluefish is one of the most effective foods you can take. All varieties of bluefish are rich in iodine content, which would help you in combating your iodine deficiency. 

  • Fights against degenerative diseases

Bluefish also has vitamin E and A in them. These vitamins are antioxidants that protect your body from degenerative illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s, or any cardiovascular disease. 

  • Proper blood circulation

This is the most important health benefit that bluefish provides us with. The vitamins present in the fillet allows the blood pressure to remain in control, thus improving one’s cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that consuming medium-sized bluefish increase the omega 3 fatty acids content in your body which significantly improves your cardiovascular and arterial health

  • Bluefish fosters the regrowth of DNA 

Bluefish are rich in vitamin B, which is essentially required for the regeneration of DNA. Besides that, vitamin B is also required for the conversion of food into energy, which is abundantly provided by bluefish. 

As is evident, the benefits of consuming bluefish are innumerable. Incorporate them into your daily diet to remain healthy and fit. Regular limited consumption of bluefish can result in strong bones and reduce inflammation and stimulate the body metabolism. Regular consumption of Selenium enhances your body’s antioxidant properties, thus helping your body fight against chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or cardiovascular attacks. 

Because of its high protein content, it fastens body growth and development and helps in controlling the blood pressure. Also, it leads to improved sleep quality. However, you must consult your dietician before consuming any variety of bluefish because they have high mercury content, which is harmful if consumed at high levels. 

Conclusion

Bluefish have a silvery belly and sides and a bluish-green back. They have prominent, sharp jaws and compressed, uniform teeth and broad, thorny upper fins. Fillets have a coarse but moist and rich texture. Since the adult bluefish prey on smaller forage fishes, they have a more pronounced taste than the young ones. They are fierce fighters, which is why fishermen call them “choppers”. Newborn bluefish weigh about 1 to 2 pounds, whereas the larger ones occasionally weigh up to 30 pounds. The ones that are available in the market weigh about 3 to 5 pounds. Syncing with the seasons, they migrate towards the eastern coast from Maine to Florida and follow the same path while returning, when season favors. Younger bluefish feed on crustaceans and have mild and sweet flesh. The major areas where bluefish are found include New Jersey, Long Island, North Carolina, and the Chesapeake bay region.  

Hassle-free to prepare, delicious when served, and always rich flavored, bluefish are highly nutritious. Feed your family with the incredible varieties of bluefish, anytime at home!

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.