On this solemn day in which Americans unite in remembrance of our country's fallen, we also pray for our military personnel and their families, our veterans, and all who have lost loved ones. As a grateful Nation, we forever carry the selfless sacrifice of our fallen heroes in our hearts, and we share the task of caring for those they left behind.
- Barack Obama, Memorial Day 2011
Back on May 16th I talked about the neighborhood where I keep my boat, and how my neighbors and I prepare for the fishing and boating season in May. By Memorial day, well over half the boats are in the lagoon and many of us have started our fishing season. Over this holiday weekend, many of us targeted Fluke (also called Summer Flouder) and Striped Bass (called Rockfish in the Carolinas). These are two of our area fisheries that provide some challenge (not always easy to find) some fun (the fights can be fairly good) and some food (they both are delicious fish). Few people target Bluefish, despite the fact that they are a beautiful, sleek and muscular fish, and a wonderful fight on light action fishing rods. One reason that fisherman may not target them is that they generally don't taste as good as Fluke or Striped Bass. They have a reputation as being a "fishy" tasting fish.
This past weekend we caught over dozen bluefish and kept a few to eat. On Friday afternoon I was fishing the Shinnecock Inlet. I was drifting the incoming tide, targeting Fluke and Striped Bass on different rods baited with different baits for the two species. No bites other than the occasional Sea Robin, a junk fish. I don't mind catching them once in a while just for the fight, but when they repeatedly steal my baits while I'm targeting a fish for the table and for the photo album, I have to try to laugh rather than curse. None of the other boats seemed to be catching any Fluke or Striped Bass either, as far as I could see.
On almost every drift through the inlet, I'd see some sea birds "working" the surface, picking off little baitfish. This is very often a sign of larger predator fish feeding below the surface. I knew from experience that today this was probably Bluefish feeding on schools of Bunker or Menhaden. After a few more unsuccessful drifts, I racked my fluke and bass rods up, and then I rigged a light casting rod with a lure I knew would have a good chance at attracting the Bluefish. I moved my boat into a position to drift through the spot where the "working birds" indicated the Bluefish might be feeding. I quickly hooked up and had a fun fight with a moderate sized Bluefish, who peeled line off the reel and didn't come quietly. I landed that fish and then set out to catch a few more, releasing those that were looking perfectly healthy, keeping those fish injured by the hooks and the fight. Those would be for the dinner table.
Two days later on a short evening boat ride in the bay, my wife and I saw the working birds again, this time much closer to home. We were only out for a ride, but I never ride without a casting rod ready on board! We landed a fish right away and then headed back to pick up the kids to give them a shot at some bluefish. We all had some fun for about 40 minutes and kept a few fish for the table. These fish were all about 20" long, not the "gorilla" blues we sometimes catch late in the season in the ocean, and not the little snapper-blues we catch in the lagoon and pan fry in garlic and oil.
If you set out to fish for Fluke and Bass and the sea offers you Bluefish, my advice is to take what's there, and appreciate it. Be flexible, be ready to see what's going on around you on the water and make the most of your day as we did. We enjoyed catching those fish, and to our delight, we also really enjoyed eating them. They were very fresh and great on the grill, mild meat and not at all fishy.
Whether you fished or golfed or barbecued or worked, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend, and that you remembered those who made it possible for us.