Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix)
Alternate common names: Blues, Snapper Blues,
Color: Distinct greenish blue with silvery sides; a characteristic dark spot behind its pectoral fin.
Size: 30 inches long; can reach lengths of 45 inches and weigh up to 25 pounds.
Habitat: Along the shoreline to deep water; juveniles near shore.
Seasonal appearance: May to late November.
The bluefish has a long, stout, torpedo-like body and a forked tail. This shape makes it a fast, hydrodynamic, efficient swimmer that can travel long distances. It is a voracious predator with a large mouth and strong, sharp, prominent teeth that are flat and triangular.
Life History and Behavior
The bluefish is a pelagic fish species that migrates north and south along the Atlantic coast. Bluefish found in Rhode Island waters are part of a larger population that migrates seasonally from Maine in the summer months to Florida in the winter. Bluefish frequent the Bay in the early summer and depart by late November to migrate south.
During its first few years the bluefish feeds intensely and grows rapidly. Young bluefish, called snappers or skipjacks, enter Rhode Island waters in June as small as 2 inches in length, and grow up to 10 inches by the time they leave in late September. Juvenile bluefish seek protected waters, such as estuaries and salt ponds, to search for food and protection from predation.
Bluefish have indiscriminate feeding habits and prey upon other fish, squid, crabs, American lobsters, and shrimp. Using a slashing attack style, schools of bluefish often kill more prey than they eat. Over 70 species of finfish, including river herring (alewives), butterfish, Atlantic silversides, and even juvenile bluefish, have been identified in bluefish stomach contents.
Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.