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Old 03-01-2012
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Fishing off ur sailboat in the northeast

With this warm winter we've had I get the feeling the blues and stripers will be schooling in the Northeast sooner than usual. Plus it is March 1st after all!

I would like to do some trolling off my boat while sailing in Sandy Hook Bay in the next few months. Does anyone have any recommendations on catching the types of game fish we have here in the northeast? (I did some online searching, and have mostly been coming up with methods for catching mahi mahi, tuna and other offshore or warm water fish).

What kind of lures should I try? How deep, and how far behind the boat? A lot of sources online say hand-lining is where it's at, any reason for that? (I like the simplicity, but can't see its advantage other than in cost).
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Old 03-01-2012
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I think that hand lining is recommended because a pole can get in the way of a sailboats running rigging and vica versa. That said, I have used short poles while trolling in the LI Sound with some success.
Bluefish seem to like Hopkins lures with the buck tails. They also seem to love those surgical tube small eel lures. I have hooked Bluefish within 100' of the boat while trolling under sail. The lack of engine noise seems to be a factor here. One problem with this is once you hook a fish you really need to luff up and slow your forward progress while fighting the fish. If you are lucky enough to get one along side you are going to need a net to get anything of decent size on board.
Striped Bass (Stripers) seem to be a bit smarter then your average Bluefish. They seem to be able to figure out pretty quickly that a lure is not what it pretends to be. I have found that Stripers cannot resist the sight/smell of live sand worms though. I've never tried trolling with sand worms as they do tend to fall apart. Instead I'd recommend picking a spot to drop the sails and drift while dragging lightly weighted sand worm bait. If that doesn't work try free drifting a sand worm with no weight. You are bound to catch something with sand worms.
Let us know how you make out.
Good luck.
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Old 03-01-2012
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Are you sure you want a bluefish in you boat. They stink and will make a bloody oily mess.
Regardless of what you chose to use you will want to be moving at about 1 1/2 kts. Bluefish will hit atmost anything at just about any depth. Bass are much more selective and your bait needs to present near the bottom w/ wire or lead core line.
Jim
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Old 03-01-2012
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First and foremost, this is NOT the time of year to troll for bluefish or striped bass near Sandy Hook. Sure, there are some stripers there, but water temperatures have nothing to do with air temperature except for the top few inches near the water's surface. Water temperatures are predicated primarily on the number of hours of daylight and the sun's angle. The same factors are also what triggers migratory patterns.

Both species are most active when water temperatures range 65 to 72 degrees. And, both primarily feed upon Atlantic menhaden, followed by various forage species such as river herring, alewife, and a variety of juveniles of various, local species of finfish.

Both species are primarily migratory, schooling fish, particularly this time of year. The blues tend to migrate more east to west as the water warms and prey species arrive in the vicinity, while the striped bass will be migrating into the upper reaches of estuaries and rivers in preparation for spawning.

Most of the striped bass will be large, roe-laden cows, some approaching 60 or more pounds. The smaller males will already be at the spawning grounds awaiting the arrival of the females. When the water temperature in the spawning area reaches approximately 53 degrees the stripers will begin spawning. This usually takes place in early to mid April and lasts through the end of May, at which time the larger females will slowly migrate back to the coastal waters and move north to New England where they'll spend most of the summer months.

The larger bluefish, many ranging 12 to 20 pounds, will migrate inshore to feed on migrating schools of herring, mackerel and menhaden. They'll roam in relatively large packs, foraging primarily closer to the surface where water temperatures are a few degrees warmer and baitfish are more abundant. Any lure that resembles a herring or mackerel will be slammed like a freight train. Keep in mind, though, that the lure must be relatively close in size to that of the baitfish. Additionally, if the water is too cold for the blues to actively feed, the lure must be trolled at a snail's pace, 1 to 3 knots at most. When the water temperature is above 65 degrees, bluefish will hit a lure moving at speeds exceeding 5 knots and I've seen them slam a skip-bait trolled for bluefin tuna at 8 knots.

Now, lets get to the eating quality of each species. Striped bass are OK, but they're not fantastic, especially the larger ones caught during the spring spawning run. In fact, those old cows can taste pretty nasty. The best tasting stripers are those measuring 18 to 24 inches and caught from cold water. As water temperatures climb above 75 degrees, stripers tend to feed almost exclusively on Atlantic menhaden and bay anchove, both of which are very oily and nasty smelling.

Bluefish, particularly those weighing 3 to 5 pounds, while fairly oily, are quite tasty when properly cleaned and prepared fresh. Larger bluefish, those in the 12 to 20-pound range, are best when smoked.

With both species, be sure to ice the fish down immediately after landing, then skin and fillet your catch as soon as possible. Rinse the fillets thoroughly with cold, fresh water, but if that's not readily available, cold, clean ocean water works equally as well. Neither species lends itself to freezing for extended periods, and both are best when prepared fresh.

Some folks, particularly those residing south of Connecticut, tend to put bluefish in the same category with carp. That is an injustice to the species. I've used several recipes for bluefish, and while I love them smoked, fresh fillets coated with about 1/8-inch of mayonnaise and sprinkled with Old Bay Seafood Seasoning, then slowly charbroiled, are tough to beat. Most of the people I've prepared bluefish for using this recipe ask for more.

You can also use the same recipe for striped bass fillets, and it's equally as good tasting--maybe a bit better. With both species, be sure to remove the skin and dark meat along the lateral line, then rinse and pat dry before coating with the mayo. That dark meat is quite oily and somewhat bitter, and most of the toxins found in finfish are usually found in the fatty tissue just under the skin. Removing the skin and dark meat sure makes those fillets taste a lot better.

For smoked fish, oily species tend to be the best tasting, bluefish, salmon, makerel, herring, marlin, mahi-mahi, etc... Here's a recipe I developed for salmon and found it also works great for bluefish.

SMOKED SALMON

There are lots of good recipes for smoked salmon. Unfortunately, there are not many great recipes for smoked fish, but this particular one seems to be the best of all. After more than five years of experimentation, using every species of fish available in the mid-Atlantic region, the recipe has been modified until it has finally reached the pinnacle of perfection. If you enjoy the flavor of smoked fish, especially oily species such as salmon, bluefish, Atlantic mackerel, king mackerel and cobia, you'll love this.

BRINE SOLUTION
2 qts. Water
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tblsp. Old Bay Seafood Seasoning
4 tblsp. chopped, fresh Vidalia onions
˝ cup kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tblsp. Montreal steak seasoning
6 drops Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
Thoroughly mix all ingredients of brine solution in a plastic container until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Using a flat, Tupperware container pour in a small amount of bring solution (about one-inch deep). Cut fish fillets into inch-thick, four-inch squares and place them in the container in layers. After the first layer is in place, pour in enough brine solution to cover them, then add the second layer and continue until all the fillets are covered with brine. Cover the container using a sealable lid or Saran Wrap and refrigerate for five days. Be sure to agitate the container at least once daily to prevent the brine ingredients from settling–this is important. If there are several layers of fillets, it's also a good idea to occasionally separate them at least once daily to ensure all surfaces are exposed to the brine.

At the end of the brining period, remove the fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Place them on a broiler pan sprayed with Pam non-stick vegetable oil and bake in a 350-degree, preheated oven for 25 minutes, then place the fillets in the smoker. Using an electric smoker, smoke for approximately two hours using hickory chips. When the fillets are golden brown in color, remove them from the smoker, allow a few minutes for them to cool, then place them in Zip-Loc bags and refrigerate overnight before serving. While they taste good fresh from the smoker, the hickory flavor penetrates the meat completely when refrigerated in air-tight bags. The smoked fillets will last up to six weeks in the refrigerator and may be frozen for up to three months. Smoked fillets can be shredded and used with your favorite dip, or you can make a fantastic smoked salmon salad to be used as a substitute for tuna-salad. Enjoy!

Gary
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I have had some luck trolling for stripers using rattle traps.
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Awesome post, Travlin!!! Makes me want to hook a blue and try your recipe!

We troll off the stern cleat with a spool of heavy line most of the time. Have caught mostly blues but will find a few stripers earlier in the season. You need to watch boat speed with surface lures since the seagulls will dive at them when they pop up.
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Rattle Traps, especially the saltwater models, are great lures. The style, better known in the world of bass fishing, is called a crankbait. The harder you pull, the deeper the lure runs and the more action it imparts. The lure is hollow, weighted slightly with ball bearings that rattle as the lure wobbles through the water. It's perfect for stripers and bluefish, and I've caught a couple king mackerel on them as well.

Cheers,

Gary
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Hey, Travelineasy, I like your comments on fishing off your boat. We have done this a lot on the bay out of Hartge's and do it under sail. By the way, have 2 buddies going out for a day sail Friday (tomorrow). If you'd like to go, just show up at Hartge's at 10am. I'm on D dock number 135...it's an 1967 Chris Craft Apache 37 sloop. Would love to have you.

Moe
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Great post Gary! I'd love to try your smoked fish recipe sometime.
There is a great book by the esteemed writer John Hersey called "Blues" (Amazon.com: Blues (9780394757025): John Hersey: Books) which has a different recipe for Bluefish in each chapter, many of them involve mayonnaise.
Way out east on Long Island smoked Bluefish salad is a fairly common item found in fish stores. It rivals smoked Whitefish salad.
Surface water temps in the ocean in the NY Bight right now stand at about 45F or quite a bit warmer then usual. I'm sure you are right that it is really too early for any serious trolling but the season may start a bit earlier this year. We shall see.
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I don't keep Bluefish anymore, just throw them back. They just don't taste good.

Regards,
Brad
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