The winter blues are also on the anglers in Florida, but though the wording is the same, the meaning is totally different. The south Florida blues are the piscatorial variety, and they can brighten any winter day!
Blue fish are migratory fish, following the water temperature and bait fish up and down the east coast of the US. They can be found mixed in with Spanish and cero mackerel or in their own feeding schools. They are voracious feeders with a mouth full of sharp teeth, and they can tear up an artificial lure in a heartbeat!
We fished recently off of Carl Ross Key on the western edges of Florida Bay. Carl Ross Key was renamed from Sandy Key after I grew up, for those of you not familiar with that name. We fished outside the Everglades National Park and had roamed as far as ten miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.
It was easy to tell when we left the National Park boundary, because the stone crab traps, illegal inside the park for many years, made a checker board pattern in every direction.
We used to find mackerel out here by watching for the net boats. Airplane spotters would find a school of mackerel, and call in the boats. We simply headed for the silhouette on the horizon and found fish. When the netters left after the net ban, we used the birds to find fish.
This day we found the fish about two miles southwest of Carl Ross under a frenzy of gulls and frigate birds. We were all set to hook up to some big ceros, but it turned out that the entire school was bluefish!
We used the same lures that we use on ceros, small, white nylon jigs wrapped with red thread. We tipped the jigs with hardened shrimp (see my How To on making bait tips), and cast right into the frenzy. My friend, John, tried a bucktail in the same color, and it worked just fine for exactly two fish. After that, the hairs had been cut to shreds by the blues' sharp teeth!
I tried some small spoons, which often work well on blues, but they seemed to want the shrimp smell on those jigs. Staying with the school, we caught over fifty fish in a matter of about an hour. Many times we were cut off as one blue would strike at the swivel on our line while we fought another fish. The tip here is to use black swivels! We also got far more hookups with monofilament leaders, but lost fewer fish with a short wire leader. The compromise was to shorten the wire leader to about three inches, just enough to clear sharp teeth, and tie the remaining fifteen inches in monofilament.
Blues up to ten pounds will be all over south Florida waters this winter, just as in winters past. If you live there, take advantage of it. If you live elsewhere, consider taking these hard fighters on in an area not usually known for bluefish! These winter blues can certainly take away your personal winter blues!
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