Bluey (Pacific Saury)

Pacific Saury aka Bluey

Bluey is a bait which has become very popular in UK sea fishing in recent years. It is a versatile bait which can be used in smaller sections as a general sea fishing bait or whole or in fillets or flappers to temp the largest of species such as conger, large bass and big cod.

Sanma Shioyaki
A Pacific suary prepared as part of a traditional Japanese Sanma Shioyaki meal.

Many anglers are confused about what exactly bluey is. To start with bluey is a nickname, presumably given because of the vaguely blue colour of this fish. It is officially called Pacific saury (or to give it its scientific name Cololabis saira). They are a slim and streamlined fish with short fins and pointed snouts which look something like a cross between a mackerel and a garfish. Their natural environment is the North Pacific where they swim in mid-water mostly feeding on plankton and the larvae of fish. They are an important part of the North Pacific food chain and are preyed upon by fish such as tuna and sharks. In Asia and parts of Russia, Pacific saury are a very important food fish and are considered a delicacy in parts of South Korea and Japan, where they are so popular Pacific saury ice cream is even available! However, they are yet to catch on as a food fish in Britain and the vast majority that are imported to the UK are used as fishing bait.

Purchasing Blueys

Blueys in Packet
A packet of three frozen blueys bought from a fishing tackle shop.

Unless anglers are prepared to travel to the North Pacific there is no chance of catching blueys on rod and line, and since they are not a common food fish in the UK they are not usually available from supermarkets (although places specialising in Asian food may stock them). That leaves the fishing tackle shop and online bait sellers as the only places where blueys can be reliably purchased in frozen form, usually in packets of three or four. Many anglers keep a supply of bluey in the freezer, ready for a fishing trip at short notice, or for winter fishing when fresh bait is harder to come by. Frozen bluey will keep perfectly well in a domestic freezer for several years.

Better than Mackerel?

Oily fish (such as herring and mackerel) are fish which have their oil throughout their body, contrasting with whitefish (such as cod) which have their oil concentrated in their liver. Oily fish clearly make the best baits as the oil, guts and other juices leak out of the flesh and create a scent trail which does not happen with whitefish. Bluey are very oily indeed with many anglers believing they contain more oil than mackerel.

Bluey in a Japanese Supermarket
Fresh bluey on sale in a Japanese supermarket. It is very difficult to get fresh bluey in the UK, but it still makes an excellent bait in frozen form.

For this reason many anglers believe that bluey will put out more of a scent trail and take longer to become washed out than an equivalent sized mackerel bait. Although there is no definitive proof to back this up many anglers claim that catch rates are better when using bluey instead of mackerel, and although this is a species found nowhere near British waters it still catches all manner of British species.

Bluey Bait Presentation

Bluey strip
A strip of bluey presented on a small hook.

As stated bluey is a versatile bait which can be used to catch a wide range of fish across British waters. For general sea fishing with hooks sized 1 to 2/0 strips of bluey around 3 – 9cm (1 – 3½ inches) can be used. Although bluey is not a particularly tough bait it will stay on the hook if the hook is threaded through several times (as the picture above shows). Using a strong but relatively fine wire hook such as the Kamasan B940 Aberdeen is a good idea as this hook provides good bait presentation but is strong enough to handle any larger species which may take the bait. Sections of this size can also be used as a float fishing bait to catch mackerel, pollock and wrasse. For larger species such as cod, bass, and rays larger strips of bluey can be used, but if the size of the bait is increased it is a good idea to use bait elastic or cotton to secure it to the hook. If targeting larger species then stepping up to a stronger pattern of hook such as Cronus O’Shaughnessy hooks.

Bluey large bait
Half of a bluey presented on a size 8/0 hook and secured with bait elastic. This would be an ideal bait for large species such as conger eels.

For the very biggest fish such as conger eels and tope then blueys can be cut in half and both sections used as full baits. The head of a bluey can be hooked either through the eyes or through the roof of the mouth with size 6/0 – 10/0 hooks. Alternatively, large fillets can be cut from the flanks of bluey to used as a single large bait.