Bluefish
Scientific classification
Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
Order:
Suborder:
Superfamily:
Family:
Pomatomidae
Genus:
Pomatomus

Species:
P. saltatrix
Binomial name
Pomatomus saltatrix
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Bluefish is also a common name for Anoplopoma fimbria (sablefish) in the UK.

The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), called tailor in Australia,[1] is a species of popular marine gamefish found in all climates. It is the only extant species of the Pomatomidae family.

In South Africa, this fish is commonly known as shad on the east coast, and elf on the west coast. Shad can not be commercially sold in KwaZulu-Natal, and has a closed season (currently October and November) to allow for breeding. On the west coast, elf is a commercially fished species.

Other common names are blue, chopper, and anchoa.[2]

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.

North American Atlantic migration patterns

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"Trolling for blue fish" lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1866

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.

Life history

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. The bluefish population is highly cyclical, with abundance varying widely over a span of ten years or more.

Feeding habits

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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 should be handled with care due to their ability to snap at an unwary hand. In July 2006, a 7 year-old girl was attacked on a beach, near the Spanish town of Alicante, allegedly by a bluefish.[3]

Bluefish are extremely aggressive, and will often chase bait through the surf zone, and literally onto dry beach. Thousands of big bluefish will attack schools of hapless baitfish in mere inches of water, churning the water like a washing machine. This behavior is sometimes referred to as a "bluefish blitz".

Bluefish are cannibalistic. Some hypothesize that because of cannibalistic behavior, bluefish tend to swim in schools of similarly sized specimens. Others hypothesize that bluefish school with like-sized individuals, because they swim at the same rate, thus expending the same energy when traveling, and thus having identical food intake requirements. Bluefish are preyed upon 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.

Management

Bluefish is a highly sought-after sportfish that used to be overfished, but restrictions set forth by management organizations have helped the species population grow.

Other uses

Bluefish are often caught and used as live bait for tuna, shark, or billfish.

Similar species

Bluefish are the only members now included in the Pomatomidae family. At one time, gnomefishes were once included, but these are now in grouped in a separate family, Scombropidae.

References