I found this recipe on the Stripersonline site, from a guy who claimed this was the best tasting bluefish he’d ever had, so good that he had to beg the staff for the recipe. Or maybe it was his brother that did the begging. Either way, with all the bluefish running in the area, I thought it would be a good chance to try a secret classic. Only that once I decide I’m going to do something with a fish, that’s a sure way to not catch any—or at least not catch enough. The lone exception was the Thanksgiving Massacre last year in Monmouth County, New Jersey in which my uncle asked me to bring a fish home on Black Friday, and by some damn miracle I did. I’m also allergic to walnuts anyway, but I wonder if one could substitute almonds.
About a week before I saw that post I hit up Breezy Point on a bright and sunny Memorial Day Saturday. I knew it was going to be a bad idea to head down on a holiday weekend, but I went anyway. The back lot was overfull; with lots of untagged cars among the 4WD and other permits. It didn’t matter to me, as I have the 4WD tag this year so I spun a quick U-turn and headed into the sand. I drove through a bunch of decent sized puddles; it apparently rained a few days, or even for a few days, beforehand. But you know, Subaru power! Actually, that got me into a decent amount of trouble about a month before when I got the car stuck in a water-logged ditch in the Poconos—like a two-and-a-half foot ditch full of melted snow and rainwater rushing downhill and eventually partially filling the passenger side interior of my car before the tow truck came to winch me out. I made up a bunch of lies about how I ended up in that ditch, and of course the tow truck guy had to state the customary, “I’ve never seen anyone do this before…” Yeah, right.
But back to that sunny Saturday: the further back I got the deeper the pools became. I plowed through most of them before stopping at the last one before the lot—it was about 20 feet long and stained a, for lack of a better description, water-treatment plant brown. Recalling the aforementioned dunking my car got in Pennsylvania and the $1000+ I spent on repairs and the ongoing DIY sleuthing I’m still in the process of tracking down to clear those damn CELs, I was a little reluctant to make this crossing. I couldn’t tell how deep the pool was and didn’t see any other tire tracks going in or out. I got out of the car and walked around the pond up to the lot to find an even bigger and deeper pond where the parking lot once was. I proceeded to do a kind of Austin Powers 50-point turn to return to the back lot overflowing with cars.
I geared up in the fading light and right out of the gate I see a guy with a good sized bass on a stringer. He’s pencil popping and the water seems ripe for the popper, but as I walk up all I see are bait guys. Bait guys, lots of bluefish, and sacks of fish. I passed one guy with a bluefish still choking out its last bloody breaths (this particular guy was smart enough to bleed out his blues as soon as they were off the hook). I walked about 20 feet past him and tossed a 7” Cotten Cordell pencil—probably the most effective $7 plug you can buy. First cast immediately smashed by a bluefish. Second cast smashed by a bluefish. Third cast smashed by bluefish. It was a good, fun start, but I didn’t take any pictures because it wasn’t really what I was looking for.
After five or six fish I moved on to the jetty. At this point the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in. The crowd petered out the further toward the ocean I walked, but I saw three guys out on the jetty, about halfway out. The tide was up and still coming in. I passed the first break, already flooded with water and the waves turning ugly. The three other guys were past the second break and I considered going just past them before I received a smashing myself with a faceful of ocean water. I left my jacket at home, so I decided to stay put, and it took a few more idiotic drenchings before I decided I ought to move in a little more. I figured I’d stay on the jetty as long as the other guys were out there. I stayed about an hour and a half with no hits under a black sky with an intermittent sliver of moon poking through before I saw them moving back in. As they passed me I saw one of them had rain gear on, and the other two were in jeans and sneakers. Jeans and sneakers on a soaking jetty in snotty weather! I was waiting for these guys??? The guy in rain gear had a head lamp that could have illuminated an abandoned coal mine, which would have made local guys very happy had they been there, and I watched him pour 1000 lumens ahead so the other two could see where those rocks were under water that they had to cross in those jeans and sneakers. I felt bad for them and they looked fairly miserable and wet and cold, but at least they made it back in.
[An aside: PLEASE don’t be that guy who gets knocked off the jetty because you don’t have the right gear or don’t know what you’re doing. If you have a wife, or husband, or kids, or friends and you do this anyway, it’s irresponsible and you are being an asshole. Every year people die off jetties. Don’t walk out on an unfamiliar jetty on an incoming tide. Korkers or Grip Studs are King and absolutely necessary when climbing over wet and uneven rocks. I won’t take anyone out on the jetty without them. Waders are usually frowned upon by locals, but not uncommon. Wear a belt if you wear waders. Bring a knife on that belt. Bring your own light. Even with all of this, it’s still possible to get knocked in and you should be prepared for what you’re going to do if that happens. About 10 years ago my uncle and another guy were swept off the Indian River Inlet jetty in Delaware. My uncle popped his PFD (another smart move) and got scooped up by a fishing boat. They searched for the other guy and by some miracle saw a rod tip sticking straight up out of the water. The guys on the boat pulled on the rod and found the guy, drowning, clutching his rod and he had already swallowed a bunch of water before they revived him.]
A week later I took my friend Heather out fishing. She has never caught a fish before. After some casting lessons at Floyd Bennett we went back to Breezy Point. Since she didn’t have any gear we didn’t go to the jetty but stuck to the sand. Another gorgeous Saturday evening, but this time with few fish. I saw some small blues splashing the surface but my waders were waterlogged as usual and I was slow to get to them. I stubbornly stuck to the water, convinced if I walked out a little further I could hit this drop off with a bucktail. Heather fished on her own behind me, tossing an SP Minnow, which I just remembered is no longer in my bag and have to stop writing to go look for it. Small birds dove here and there around me in about six inches of water and while I worked deeper water I heard shouting behind me. I turned around to see her dragging a little fluke, maybe twice the size of the lure, up the beach. Her first fish, all solo.
Before it got dark I got a small bluefish. Not the smallest bluefish I ever caught, but it would probably take five or six more of them to make a meal. I decided to drink the last of the beer instead.