Still waiting on those big striped bass to make their way to our waters? You're not alone. Reports indicate that they are coming northward and could be here any day. In the meantime, the great squid season, together with the delayed arrival of large stripers, has opened a window for excellent bluefish action - something worth taking advantage of.
Some might say bluefish are second fiddle to stripers in both flavor and prestige. That's an argument for a different day. But one thing bluefish win on, hands down, is putting up a fight - which makes them a lot of fun to catch.
Properly taking care of your catch is the best way to insure that your bluefish filets are as tasty as they should be. It's always good to bleed a bluefish if you're keeping it to eat. Slash the gills and put it head down into a bucket of seawater. Keep the fish cool - don't let it sit on the hot boat floor in the sun - and get it onto ice. And when you filet, make sure that you remove that band of dark, purplish meat, leaving just the pale blue-gray meat.
As Kevin Blinkoff, of On The Water magazine, notes, bluefish are an aggressive fish in the water, and they're no slouches on the plate either. They stand up to strong seasoning and strong cooking. They can be pan-blackened, grilled, and smoked. One of my favorite ways to prepare bluefish is to marinade with diced garlic, diced ginger, olive oil, and soy sauce. Marinade the filets for 20 minutes or so, then sear them in a very hot pan, or grill them, being sure to keep all those delicious garlic and ginger bits with the fish.
Heading out with a rod this Memorial Day weekend? Sea bass and scup action is picking up, so try bottom fishing with squid bait. If you want to cast, there should be plenty of schoolies to keep you busy, too, along with the bluefish.