One of the highlights of the summer is fishing for bluefish from the shores of Martha’s Vineyard. Blue fishing is an all day affair, requiring some planning and a bit of commitment. Each June we load up the car with lunch, snacks, beer, coolers of ice, chairs, rod holders, rods and tackle, towels, beach games and maybe a kite or two, oh, and the kids on top of it all, and we head out for East beach on Chappaquiddick. To get there we must drive the 20 minutes to Edgartown and queue up in the ferry line to make the short hop to the island off the island. Once there, we drive until the road turns to sand and stop at the Trustees of the Reservation hut to have them check our sticker. The Trustees are a statewide conservation organization that manages much of the public lands on Martha’s Vineyard. Check out their website here for information about this great organization www.thetrustees.org/ They make sure we have paid the price to access the land trust areas, warn us to stay off the roped areas reserved for plover mating, and send us on our way. From there we let most of the air out of our tires to allow the truck some traction in the deep sand, and off we go, bouncing over the dunes in the back of the pickup.
Fishing on East beach is a funny thing. One can cast for hours and never get a bite, or throw in one deadly dick and haul in a fighting blue. It just depends on if the fish are running. When they are around, they will hit on almost anything. Sluggos, plugs, any type of shiny lure. Once one is caught, fisherman up and down the beach run to their rods and the catch is on. Bluefish are a blast to catch because they are fighters and will regularly take line before you get them to shore. They like to jump and shake, trying to lose the hook. Most fishermen use some sort of treble hook to increase their chances of landing a fish. Once on shore, one must use caution unhooking them, as they have very sharp teeth. Years ago we were taking a picture of my sons after catching some blue fish and, with one of them holding a fish, they both turned toward each other at the same time. The fish’s teeth raked the eyelid of one boy and cut him open. He bears the scars to this day.
I like to catch bluefish as long as we keep are keeping them. When we decide we have enough for a good feed or two, I’m ready to be done. For a few years I would continue to catch and release them, but they fight so hard and sometimes wear themselves out, and I found I lost the taste for it. I tried using a single hook, to give them more of a chance, but after awhile I simply decided that If I wasn’t going to eat them, I might as well leave them alone.
Bluefish get a bad rap as an eating fish, but I’m hear to tell you that, if treated properly, they are one of the best types of fish for eating. If you have ever bought bluefish in a store, you haven’t really tried bluefish. They must be eaten fresh, within a day of catching them. After that they turn from a dusky pink to a sickly blue color and taste oily and, well, fishy. Furthermore, once caught, they must be bled out and kept on ice. To bleed them, use a sharp knife right in the middle of the chest up to the throat. It is a fast way to ease them on their way and it makes the flesh taste better. Ice them immediately. If they can be filleted right on the beach, all the better. The best way to cook the freshest bluefish is right on the grill. Salt, pepper, skin side down until the flesh is white and flaky. After that, anyway is a good way. I have baked it, braised it, fried it and sauteed it with any assortment of herbs and spices. For a sublime bluefish recipe, check out this link to braised bluefish with saffron risotto. http://braveapron.com/tag/saffron/. Leftover bluefish with scrambled eggs is a real morning treat. Anyway you prepare it, bluefish is a delicacy and one not to be missed in these summer months. We ate grilled bluefish with summer salad from the garden and roasted sweet potatoes, and finished with a delicate strawberry mousse. Yummy!