Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix

The Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix, whose common Spanish name is anjova, is a species in the Bluefish or Pomatomidae Family, known as anjovas in Mexico. This is the only species in the family, which has been placed in the genus Pomatomus, and in Mexican waters it is found only in the Atlantic.

The Bluefish have oblong laterally compressed bodies. They are dark green to steel blue in color and transition to white or silver on their sides and belly. Their anal and dorsal fins are green with yellow tinges. Most fish have a dark blue pectoral fin base. They have a large head with a large oblique mouth that opens at the front; some fish have a projecting lower jaw. They have prominent sharp teeth. Their anal fin is a little shorter than their soft dorsal fin and has two or 3 spines and 23 to 27 rays; their caudal fin is forked; their first dorsal fin has 7 or 8 weak short spines; their second dorsal fin has one spine and 23 to 28 rays; their pectoral fins are short; and their pelvic fins are inserted before their pectoral fins. Their lateral line is straight and complete and they are covered with small scales.

The Bluefish are a migratory pelagic species that travels in large schools. They are found both in inshore coastal waters and offshore at depths up to 650 feet. They reach a maximum length of 130 cm (51 inches) and normally weigh between 500 g and 3.2 kg (1 and 7 pounds); the world record is 31 pounds and 12 ounces. They are opportunistic visual daytime predators that consume anchovies, crabs, croakers, mullets, sardines, and shrimp. They are preyed upon by sharks, swordfish, tunas, and wahoo. They have the ability to maintain their body temperatures as much as 4oC (7oF) above the surrounding water temperatures. They have a lifespan of about 11 years.

In Mexican waters the Bluefish is limited to the Atlantic Ocean being found throughout all western portions of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bluefish can be confused with the Banded Rudderfish, Seriola zonata (oblique bar running through the eye), the Blue Runner, Caranx crysos (black spot on the gill cover), and the Greater Amberjack, Seriola dumerilli (oblique bar running through the eye).

The Bluefish are voracious and exciting game fish that make strong runs and frequent jumps; they are the number one game fish among recreational anglers in many states along the East Coast of the United States. They are also a mainstay of pier fishermen and are found just outside the breaker line. They are considered excellent table fare when cooked on the day of catch. Historically they were a significant component of the commercial catch in the Southern United States, however, with the implementation of a ban on the use of gill nets in 1995 they have been in strong decline in the commercial fishery.

Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix. Fish caught off the pier in Folly Beach, SC, June 2015. Length: 46 cm (18 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ryan Crutchfield, Tampa, FL.