Bluefish Memories

by Barbara Macfarlane

Never heard of Bluefish? I understand. You’ll hardly ever see it in a seafood case in the west, and only sometimes in the east. It’s a rich, oily, large fish that some people compare to sardines, so if you like sardines you’ll love this fish! 

Growing up in VT, it was always a treat to get to the ocean, Nantucket, in the summer. Out of the oppressive humidity and heat of Vermont and by the ocean breezes. Our families would rent a house and then squeeze aunts, uncles, and many cousins into it. Everyone had at least 3 kids, we had 6. Then we would drive a station wagon to the grocery store and buy about $12,000 worth of food for everyone. We would never buy fish though, because that HAD TO BE fresh. 

Here’s how surf casting works. First, you need to get up quite early, because driving a vehicle on the beach was only allowed early in the day (it’s probably not allowed at all now). One of the cousins would have a beater 4-wheel drive jeep, and we’d load the rods into the back and us into the seats. The rods are very long and would hang out the back. You also need to bring a fish priest, but I’ll explain that later. I think the tide was usually coming in. 

Bluefish swim in schools, and we could see them darkening the water just under the waves. When you find this, you get to work. Bait the line, and then with all your might you cast as far as you can. Bluefish feed on smaller fish, so you have to make your bait move quickly, like a fish trying to get away. Then the chaos starts. The fish start to strike, and seagulls, seeing the commotion, start to land on the water. Some people hook seagulls by mistake, and 1 person needs to run around and unhook seagulls, help reel a fish in, unhook fish that aren’t bluefish, and dispatch the ones for keeping by hitting them on the head with a stick called a fish priest. 

Most people want to get a little citrus on an oily fish, but not my mother. She went in the opposite direction with a super simple recipe. Clean fish (we’ll have that done for you), spread a little mayo and S&P on it, wrap in foil, and throw on the grill. As I write this I can almost taste it, it was so special and good!

Here’s some more recipes for you.