Smoking The Blues

bluefish, gator bluefish, yellow eyed devil, delaware, sussex county,
Jason Schuster with a gator blue from Cape Henlopen

We had another great bluefish run again this spring, the big gators are one of my favorite fish to catch. They are super aggressive blowing up top waters and fight hard. I was lucky enough to land over a dozen fish this spring all over ten pounds, including a 37″ 16 pound bluefish on a popper that earned me a citation. I released most of the these fish but I did keep a few. Bluefish, especially the big ones get a bad rep. People say they are inedible which simply isn’t true, BUT you do have to prepare them correctly. They are not my favorite fish to eat, that would be a nice striped bass, but they can be very good. If you decide to keep one you must “bleed” it out right away, and put it on ice immediately. So what do people do with all the big
Bluefish that we harvested this spring??? I’ve been down at the Cape and saw many people haul away A LOT of fish. Now fresh bluefish is good, especially the little snappers, I like to grill them or fry them. But my favorite way to cook big Blues is to smoke them. Bluefish do not freeze very well, but when you smoke them it doesn’t seem to matter too much.

smoking bluefish, weber grill as a smaoker
Weber grill set up with the chips for smoking.

You don’t need a big fancy smoker either, I have a Weber charcoal grill and it works perfectly. There’s three steps I follow when smoking a big gator blue fillet. First is to brine the meat, then I let it dry on a rack, and then it goes on the grill. First before it goes into the brining solution, trim up the meat. Cut off all the dark red meat, that contains most of the toxins and has a bad fishy taste.



brining bluefish for the smoker
Brining the bluefish

1. Brining –
Get a big container and fill it with water, … then add …
1/2 cup kosher salt,
1/2 cup old bay,
1/2 cup of brown sugar and some black pepper.
(You can add any seasoning you like, this is just how I do it.) Make sure the fish is fully soaked in the brining solution, cover the container and refrigerate. You could brine it overnight but I usually only do it for three to four hours. The longer it brines the saltier it will be. I prefer it less salty.




gator bluefish, fish drying rack
Drying bluefish on the rack

Drying –

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Set up a wire rack over a tray and place the fish on the rack, and hit the filets with some salt. Let the fish rest out in room temperature, this will help draw moisture out of the meat so you get a better smoke. Three to four hours is usually about right but I’ve continued to the next step after less time.



Trimming the “bad” meat or dark meat off the filets

Smoking –

You will need to soak some of your favorite wood chips in water so they don’t burn up over the charcoal in your grill. Applewood and hickory are my favorites. Once you get your charcoal lit, push them all over to one side of the grill, and place the wood chips in a aluminum tray and put them right on top of the coals. This creates a hot and cool side, which is essentially all a smoker is. Place your fish on the cool side of the grill and try to keep the temperature around 300-350 degrees. I like to sprinkle some brown sugar and crushed red pepper flakes on the fish at this point. Keep the lid of your grill on and make sure your wood chips are smoking nicely. After about two or three hours you will have some nicely smoked Bluefish. It is salty, sweet, moist, spicy, and crispy all at once. It is delicious. So show some love to those big Bluefish we all like to catch and try smoking them!

Jason Schuster



bluefish, cooking, smoking, delaware, sussex county
Bluefish on the grill converted to a smoker
smoked bluefish
Dinner is served

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