Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix

The Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is the only living species of the family Pomatomidae. It is a marine pelagic fish that can be found around the world in temperate and subtropical waters, except for the northern Pacific Ocean. Bluefish are known as tailor in Australia, shad on the east coast of South Africa, and elf on the west coast. Other common names regarding this fish are blue, chopper, and anchoa. It is a good eating and game fish.

The bluefish is moderately proportioned with a broad and forked tail. The spiny first dorsal fin is usually folded back in a groove, as are its pectoral fins. The coloration is grayish blue-green, fading to white on the lower sides and belly. Its single row of teeth in each jaw are uniform in size, knife-edged, and sharp. The bluefish commonly range in size from seven-inch “snappers” to much larger, occasionally weighing as much as 40 pounds, though fish heavier than 20 pounds are exceptional.

They are widely distributed around the world in tropical and subtropical waters. They can be found in pelagic waters on much of the continental shelves along eastern America, Africa, the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Southeast Asia, and Australia. They can be found in various coastal habitats: above the continental shelf, in energetic waters near surf beaches, or by rock headlands. They also enter estuaries and live in brackish waters. Periodically, they leave the coasts and migrate in schools through open waters.

The adult bluefish are strong and aggressive, and live in loose groups. They’re fast swimmers which prey on schools of forage fish, and continue attacking them in feeding frenzies even after they appear to have eaten their fill. Depending on the area and the season, they favor menhaden and other sardine-like fish, jacks, weakfish, grunts, striped anchovies, shrimp, and squid. They are cannibalistic and can ruin their own young. The fish occasionally chase bait through the surf zone, attacking schools in very shallow water, churning the water like a washing machine. This behavior is sometimes referred to as a “bluefish blitz”.

In turn, the bluefish are preyed upon by larger predators at all stages of their life cycle. When juveniles, they fall victim to various oceanic predators, including striped bass, larger bluefish, fluke, weakfish, tuna, sharks, rays, and dolphins. As adults, they are taken by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and many other species.

Image Caption: Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix. Credit: Unknown/Wikipedia