Thursday, September 8, 2011

The $25,000 Fish

In spirit of this weekend's WICC bluefish tournament, I felt motivated to put a few words and photographs together about the fish that so many anglers love to hate. Choppers, gators, gorilla blues, yellow-eyed demons; call them what you will, but pound-for-pound bluefish fight harder than any fish in Long Island Sound. Their famous acrobatics and drag-screaming runs help make up for the damage they inflict on terminal tackle and bait supplies. They can reach weights in excess of 20-pounds and are mean sons-of-bitches when it comes to removing hooks after capture. Bluefish are fierce predators that feed past the point of being full and puke up their last meal just to eat more.

In September of 2006, friends and I capitalized on a few-week span of great fishing for giant blues. There were fish ranging from 15 to 20-pounds gorging a large school of adult bunker pinned against a sandbar night after night. It was borderline stupid. Anything you tied on the end of your line was coming back battle-scarred, if it came back at all. The largest gator I caught during that stretch ripped two of three treble hooks off my Atom 40 plug and was puking up full bunker on shore. To this day it still ranks as the largest blue I've ever landed. That memorable chapter of fishing ingrained in me a deep respect for the mighty bluefish. 

This weekend's tournament kicks off at 12:01 AM Saturday morning and will come to a close at 5 PM on Sunday. All waters within Long Island Sound are open game and the heaviest bluefish caught on a hook and line will earn one lucky angler $25,000. Let me say that again--$25K for a bluefish! The tournament was originally scheduled when Hurricane Irene hit two weeks ago, so blues have had even more time to fatten up on the cornucopia of baitfish in the Sound right now. It would be nice to see some choppers on the leader board that rival the heydays of the tournament when 18-pounders were commonplace. I have never entered this tournament mostly because I don't own a boat and there is currently no surf division. I'm told a surfcasting category was given a shot a few years ago, but not again since. Perhaps the powers-at-be will try again in the future, especially if they looking for new blood.

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