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[posted 5/17/98]

Flyrodding Jamaica Bay for Cocktail Bluefish

By Paul Rudolph

Located on the extreme western south shore of Long Island, Jamaica Bay is known for its winter flounder in the spring and its weakfish in the summer and early fall. What is not generally known is that its fishing for cocktail bluefish can be fantastic throughout the summer and fall.

There has been a nice run of fish over the past couple of seasons. While the lion's share of the action has been from boats, there were times when fly rodders had the fighters right in front of them on the shoreline.

Tackle Requirements

If you're fishing off a boat or from the shoreline, the best all-around fly rod for cocktail blues is a 9-weight. It gives you some backbone in case you tangle with a bigger bluefish, and it also makes it easier to combat the wind. If you are on a boat, you can step down to a lighter fly rod, even as low as a 5-weight which I've used occasionally. Full fly line or Shooting Head, the best sink rate to use is an Intermediate. This gives you the option to work both surface and subsurface patterns.


All of the standard saltwater patterns, such as Deceivers and epoxy flies, work to catch these fish, but the most consistent producer is the Clouser. An olive/white 2/0 Clouser can be deadly on bluefish. There are also times when a white popper is effective.

Please note that when you are targeting these fish. you should have a selection of patterns already rigged with wire tippets. Bluefish can do a number on monofilament, and even a heavy shock tippet may not be enough.

The only disadvantage of using wire is it minimizes the possibility of catching any wary striped bass or a weakfish that might also be in the area. In order to prevent this problem, I fish with a monofilament tippet until I lose a pattern or two to the choppers, then I switch to wire. However, you still run the risk of losing a fly even after making the switch. I had one blue on while I watched another trying to bite the fly out right out of the fish's mouth.

Best Boat Spots

In general, bluefish can show up anywhere, at anytime, and start to feed. There is no telling exactly where they will be on any particular day. There are times when Jamaica Bay's blues are like that, but they also make their rounds with some degree of predictability.

I have found that the fish show up consistently during the last two hours of high tide, usually in the back of the bay in the Silver Hole area. I have also found that they feed around the Cross Bay Bridge and where the A Train Bridge crosses the bay. There are some really nice rip lines that form there, causing causes baitfish to become confused and disorientated. The bluefish are usually waiting in the rips to take advantage of the situation.

After the tide floods, I have found that the fish often show up slightly west of the Silver Hole area off the northwest corner of Barren Island. This is called Raptor Point. When the tide starts dropping, the fish move around the island and pop up off another point on the southwest corner of Barren Island where there is a beautiful rip. The rip sets up an ambush for the bluefish to feed on baitfish coming out of the bay. When the tide just about bottoms out, it is worth it to take a ride and see if there is any action at the mouth of Jamaica Bay around the Breezy Point jetty.

Boating Tips

It may seem as if bluefish aren't afraid of anything, but that's not necessarily the case. When you locate a school of bluefish, you want to be sure not to spook them by roaring in with a loud boat engine. I suggest you get ahead of a school of feeding fish, turn off your motor, and drift through the school of feeding fish, silently.

When you don't have any luck on the main Jamaica Bay bluefish spots, stop and look in the creeks. Sometimes the bluefish will trap baitfish in these creeks and you can have some great action.

The last tip is to get out early in the morning. You want to be first on the water so you don't have to compete with other boats that may eventually scatter the schools.

If you don't own a boat, you're not out of luck. Fortunately, Smitty's Fishing Station is there to outfit you with a small skiff and motor at a very reasonable price. These boats give you access to all of the spots I've mentioned. For more information, contact Smitty's at 718-945-2642.

Best Shore Spots

Flyrodding the shoreline is more of challenge, but it's definitely worth the effort. In order to gain the most access, you will need to obtain a Gateway National Recreation Park-wide Fishing Permit. Call 718-318-4300 for all of the information. This permit will allow you access to fish on Barren Island, where Floyd Bennett Field is located, and the federal-owned land around Breezy Point. I have fished these waters since I was a child and have found some highly likely bluefish spots.

Starting with the last two hours of the incoming water, the first spot to try is Barren Island where Floyd Bennett Field is located. I suggest you fish at the boat ramp located to the left of the Marine Parkway Bridge. I've always have some type of success whenever I've hit this spot.

After the tide starts to drop, walk back towards the bridge and all the way to your right to the southwest corner of Barren Island. You'll soon come to a point with that beautiful rip I mentioned earlier. This a consistent bluefish spot for shore anglers as well.

When you reach the half-way point of the dropping tide, the next spot I suggest is the bay side of Breezy Point. In order to fish this area, you will need to cross over the Marine Parkway Bridge. To fish this area, you'll have to park at the Beach 222nd St. parking lot, walk to the bay, and work your way left. This spot gives you an excellent chance to catch a mixed bag of bluefish and striped bass.

Tagging Bluefish

Over the past couple of seasons I have taken the time to tag some of the bluefish that I've caught. It's an easy and worthwhile process. Most anglers think the American Littoral Society is interested only in tagging stripers, but that's not the case at all. Bluefish, fluke, and other species also fall under the littoral banner. If you're interested in participating in the tagging program, contact the American Littoral Society, Highlands, NJ (908-291-0055).

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