Leaving the sunset to the stern, party boats throughout the Northeast head out into the gloaming, packed with fares hoping to fill their summer nights with fish.
“All Night Blues” is a time-honored tradition among party boat patrons. Trips leave around 7 p.m. and return around 1 a.m., with the hours in between spent doling gallons of ground bunker chum over the side, drawing packs of ravenous blues into the lights of the boat.
Most fishermen use a chunk of bunker or mackerel skewered on a large J-hook at the end of a foot-long wire leader. An egg sinker between 1 and 6 ounces, threaded onto the monofilament shock leader directly above the wire leader, helps deliver the chunk to the bluefish, with heavier weights for faster drifts. Some fishermen elect jigs instead, snapping a simple but timeless diamond jig onto the wire leader and working it through the chum cloud.
Others even add a small Cyalume light stick to the wire to help the bluefish find their rig in the dark waters. With the aid of the party boat lights and their keen sense of smell, bluefish don’t need the help of the glowstick to find the bait, but adding one definitely doesn’t hurt.
All Night Party Supplies
Grundens Petrus Bibs
Catching bluefish is bloody, slimy work, so a lightweight pair of bibs like the Grundens Petrus keeps clothes clean and dry, and anglers comfortable, even on hot summer nights.
Cuda 8.75-inch Titanium Bonded Needle Nose Pliers
For the most part, the mates will have you covered when it comes to unhooking your fish, but a pair of needle-nose pliers like the Cuda 8.75-inch Titanium Bonded Needle Nose Pliers is essential equipment for rigging, unhooking, and line-cutting on party boats and beyond.
What’s a party without some glowsticks? Whether you believe it makes a difference or not, many of your fellow anglers at the rail will be attaching a 1.5-inch glowstick to the line when dropping to nighttime blues. Most tackle shops stock them, and the package includes a sleeve for the glowstick to thread to the line above the bait.
When the blues find the chum and the gaffs start swinging, it can be tempting to get back into the water as quickly as possible. But, if you intend to make a good meal out of your bluefish fillets, take the time to bleed the fish and get it iced. Pack your cooler with ice on the way to the boat, and, when you catch your first fish, ask a mate to fill a bucket with salt water and add it to your cooler. This will make a briny slush that will keep your bled-out bluefish as cold as possible.
In northern ports, night trips are aimed at bass in addition to blues. Live eels accompany chunks as the baits of choice and, in most cases, the captains leave the chum ladles at the dock, instead electing for shorter drifts over rips, reefs and other structure. A simple fish-finder rig with a 36- to 40-inch 80-pound-test leader and a live-bait-style hook for eels (or a large octopus-style hook for chunks) will discourage bite-offs from blues without deterring line-shy bass.