Story by Tom Pagliaroli

Granted, it’s not yet as loud as the late April big blue boom of the past three years, kind of a low level tune up, but rest assured the loudness level, in the form of sand soldiers and jetty jockeys screaming bloody murder as lures and baits are bludgeoned, slashed, bashed and otherwise trashed by marauding blues anywhere from 10 to 15-plus pounds.

The whimpers resulting from creaking shoulders, aching biceps and twisted forearms are an apropos encore…as is the squeal when blue’s dentition finds and sinks deeply into flesh of the human kind.

To be sure, the arrival of big-to-jumbo bluefish, a.k.a. “choppers”, and “slammers,” and then “gators” and “gorillas” is beyond eagerly anticipated by salty action-starved anglers. What’s been vexing to all is that these past few years, the fish have been big weight-wise, unlike the typical “racer blues” that boast big heads but lean shoulders and flanks, typically tipping the scales at the 4 to 6-pounds mark despite lengths to 30-inches and beyond; the weight being put on as they pillage and plunder their way up the coast into New England. Typically, the bluefish blowing down the Garden State Coast from mid-October through November are the chopper-through-gorilla class.

But do not look a guest gator in the mouth…unless you want a nose job!

Metals, in the forms of AVAs from the 007 to the 47 sizes, either plain or affixed with a chartreuse, bright red, glow, black or yellow split tail, are the limit (15) makers. Those who enjoy the thrill of a through-the-surface blast will experience such working poppers. Prefer soaking bait? You can do no better than a wad of fresh bunker on a circle hook. Clam, fresh or salted, will also be grabbed but again, opt for a circle hook which is 90% assurance that the blue will be hooked in the jaw.

By all means have a long-nosed pliers to remove the metal, especially if employing plugs. Do yourself one better: flatten the barbs, as this will make hook removal easier, from the bluefish and from you should a twist of fate occur…and blues will try to hurt you any which way then can, from a quick, razor-like chomp to a full-body twist while you’re trying to get the hooks out. An OUCH beyond all comprehension.

Bass Class: While a few stripers are being plucked from the suds, and these are glomming fresh and salted clam baits, the majority of the bass action is occurring in the bays and tidal rivers. An increasing number of keepers (28-inches or greater) is being caught, so figure the linesider surf action to erupt by mid-week through next weekend. For now, though, plenty of eye-popping/broad smile action is occurring “out back” with downsized plugs and poppers, 3/8 to ½ ounce jig heads tipped with a twister tail grub, shad or Fin-S, the same size bucktails, or bloodworms on a high-low rig drawing smashes, thrashes and hits from bass anywhere from 15-inches to keeper (28-inches) length. Right now, it’s a very educational bass class in the Oyster Creek outflow down through the park, all along the western side of Barnegat Bay and at Graveling Point in Great Bay.

Derby Doings: The shore-based 17th Annual LBI Spring Derby kicks off tomorrow and continues through Sunday, June 24. There are first through third place cash prizes of striped bass and bluefish. The entry fee is $20. Visit lbift.com for details.