Bluefish are typically considered second-class citizens to striped bass in New England. Unlike stripers, they are less of a food delicacy, sometimes thought a nuisance breaking lines and eating lures, and have fewer restrictions on keeper limits and size. Yet these fish are thrilling to fight and land on the fly, epitomized by an early May day in Rhode Island when I fished with Joey Manansala of Woozy Fishing.

Coming off of a day with more striped bass than we could count, we fished early again and landed a few bass but found they were less active than the day prior. We headed further into Narragansett Bay. Despite being early May, the weather was a balmy 65 degrees, heating up to 73, with no wind and glassy calm seas. As we hummed along the bay looking for signs of fish, a tail peaked out of the water, and we saw a large swirl, and we knew it was game on.

Casting out towards the visible tail, the fish immediately took the fly and ran out hard. Immediately feeling the weight of the fish, I thought this was a giant bass. The fish started to make another hard run but broke the leader. Devastated, I buried my anger at losing a big bass. We quickly tied on another fly and cast to another tailing fish. Two casts, and bam, another bite, another big fish, but the line was cut again. We then realized these were bluefish with sharp teeth cutting through our leaders.

As we drifted further into the bay and the sun shined above, we found ourselves surrounded by tailing and laid-up bluefish. Swirling, rolling, and lazily flopping on their sides. It was a sight to see! The fish were rolling and tailing all around us. Big silver tails were sticking out proudly, with the light glistening off their points as they broke the glassy water. We felt transported from the not-so-distant memories of the cold New England winter to a day of Florida flats fishing.

Casting out, this time with a steel leader and chartreuse deceiver, we hooked up quickly. The fish went off, diving deep and swimming out. I cranked up the drag, but the fish kept pulling hard and took us for a ride. Taking the line quickly into the backing and turning towards the boat, I reeled as fast as possible. After getting the fish in close, it lept into the air, flying its mouth to the sky, dancing its tail on the surface, crashing its body on the water, then diving under again. The blue took multiple long runs before finally tiring out.

We landed the beast, a good-sized bluefish over 10 lbs, and spent the next 3 hours chasing fish by sight casting to the innumerable tailing blues. Watching them follow the fly close to the boat and refuse to eat, spooking fish by casting too close, and missing a big wake by casting just too far were common occurrences. Fish were popping up all around us, and we could see their bodies shining in the water. Many fish refused to eat, but the others that did took us for a ride. We lost count of the hooked fish and eventually were worn out. As the bite slowed, the fish could still be seen lazily tailing under the surface and flopping on their sides as they rolled about.

As the summer goes on, the blues will continue to travel in schools and chase bait. But a day like we had, where these muscular monsters are sunning themselves in big schools, laid up and tailing just at the surface, is rare in the Rhode Island waters we were fishing. A magical day and a reminder of our gratitude to fish the splendid New England ecosystem.

Angler Story from Grace Baldwin and Joey Manansala, be sure to follow them on Instagram @gracie_baldwin and @woozyfishing.

Check out the articles below:

How To Fly Fish for Bluefish

Watch as Bluefin Tuna Demolish a School of Bluefish


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