November 11 2022

My First Experience Smoking Bluefish (and Our Smoked Bluefish Pâté Recipe)

by Ryan Collins

*This post was originally published on November 10th, 2020.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have heard anglers talking about smoking bluefish. I've eaten smoked bluefish before and I've always enjoyed it.

However, it was not until the summer of 2020 that I finally tried smoking bluefish on my own. I'm happy to report that the results were great!

Smoked bluefish has now become one of my favorite locally available seafood items. In this report, I'd like to share with you what I've learned so far about smoking bluefish and smoked bluefish recipes.

You can continue reading by scrolling below, or you can jump to a specific section of this article by clicking a link in this table of contents.

Step #1: Catch The Bluefish

On the evening of September 5th 2020, my wife Lauren and I headed out into Cape Cod Bay on our little 12 foot aluminum boat. It was a beautiful evening with a beautiful sunset and very light winds.

lauren collins bluefish cape cod bay

At around 5pm Lauren and I saw birds working on the horizon, which is a surefire sign of feeding bass and bluefish.

In the drone photo below, you can actually see the bass (darker brown in coloration) and the bluefish (silvery/blue in coloration).

bass and bluefish feeding on peanut bunker drone photo

I carefully motored our little boat to the edge of the feeding frenzy. I made sure to not drive the boat into the feeding frenzy, as that would spook the fish and ruin the opportunity.

I was using a white 9inch Super Snax soft plastic, which is a great lure for striped bass. I made a cast towards the action and twitched the lure across the surface using a medium speed retrieve, when suddenly a bluefish exploded on the lure. 


Step #2: Prepare The Bluefish For Smoking

At my house, filleting bluefish is always an exciting time. Our cat Izzy and dog Rosie absolutely love eating bluefish scraps. You can see Rosie what I mean in the photo below.

dog eating cape cod bluefish

Plus the tradition of filleting and eating fish you caught yourself is always satisfying. Sure it can be a lot of work, but it's the type of work people have been doing for thousands of years. 

For me, filleting fish is like a breath of fresh air, especially compared to the blogging, editing fishing videos, email answering, and other work I do on the computer.

cape cod bluefish fillet

While I was filleting, Lauren began mixing the brine for the bluefish. Included in the brine was: 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 table spoons soy sauce
  • 64 fluid ounces of water (2 quarts/8 cups)

*We learned about this bluefish brine from an article published on the Elevated Wild blog. You can click here to view their smoked bluefish recipe.

stirring smoked bluefish brine

Lauren brought the brine to a simmer on the stove top, stirring so as to dissolve all the ingredients together. The brine then went into the refrigerator to cool for about one hour.

Once the brine had cooled off, we arranged the bluefish fillets on a pan and poured over the brine.

pouring bluefish brine

With the fillets fully submerged, the pan went into the refrigerator where it stayed to soak for the next 6 hours. I would not recommend soaking it for any longer or else the filets might become too salty.

After six hours we removed the fillets from the brine and put them on an oven sheet with a cookie rack to dry. We let the bluefish fillets dry in the refrigerator like this for the next 24 hours.

Step #3: Smoking The Bluefish

The next day I assembled my Cuisinart Smoker and got it ready for smoking. I added charcoal and dry wood chips to the bottom fo the smoker, and then placed a pan of water above the charcoal and chips. 

While smoking, the water will evaporate into the bluefish fillets, preventing the bluefish from drying out. This video from YouTube does a good job of demonstrating how to setup the smoker.

I heated the smoker to around 200 degrees F, took the bluefish fillets and placed them onto the grates at the top of the smoker. 

smoking bluefish with cuisinart smoker

There they stayed for the next 3 hours. I checked on the bluefish periodically and added more charcoal, chips and water as required.

After 3 hours of smoking, the edges of the bluefish should be blackened. Fillets will be done once the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

I gave it a quick taste test and it was delicious!

Smoked Bluefish Recipe

Step #4: Smoked Bluefish Pâté Recipe

I thought that the smoked bluefish tasted similar to a holiday ham. The briny saltiness mixed with the smokey flavor was delicious, and I could of eaten all the fillets "as is" in no time at all.

However, Lauren and I wanted to save at least some of the bluefish so we could try making smoked bluefish pâté for the very first time. We started by tearing the bluefish into shreds.

shredded smoked bluefish for pate

To make the smoked bluefish spread, we used the following ingredient list, which was adapted from this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • quarter of a medium red onion, finely dices
  • 1-2 dashes of hot sauce
  • quarter cup of minced chives
  • a handful of cilantro

Lauren started by placing the shredded bluefish and cream cheese into a food processor.

how to make smoked bluefish pate

She used the processor sparingly, and slightly chopped and mixed the bluefish and cream cheese together. 

Next she added in the red onion, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, minced chives and cilantro.

making smoked bluefish pate

After a very light and quick blend all the ingredients came together to form a delicious smoked bluefish pâté. 

cape cod smoked bluefish pate with crackers

Bluefish Recipes Cook Book

Over the years on My Fishing Cape Cod we've asked members to share their favorite bluefish recipes, and the response has been great!

Through the forum, email and blog post comments, we've created a bluefish recipes e-book, with tried and beloved bluefish recipes, shared by members and fans of My Fishing Cape Cod.

Some of the bluefish recipes included in the e-book are:

If you are a member of My Fishing Cape Cod then you can download the book for free by clicking below.

If you aren't a member (and don't want to become one) then you can purchase the book here for $7. All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Cape & Islands Veterans' Outreach Center.

Our Favorite

Bluefish Recipes

  • Nantucket Baked Bluefish
  • Smoked bluefish pate
  • Bluefish burgers
  • Bluefish poppers
  • And more!

In Conclusion

In my opinion, smoked bluefish is absolutely delicious, and homemade smoked bluefish pâté has now become one of my favorite seafood dishes.

I definitely recommend giving smoked bluefish a try, especially if you don't usually enjoy eating bluefish. The smoky flavor of smoked bluefish is much, much different than the oily bluefish fillet most people are used to.

Do you enjoy smoking bluefish? What tips and words advice do you have to share? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Tight lines! ?

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  • The U-tube demonstration video used a “match light” charcoal to start fire but I would recommend NOT using it, especially with fish, because of the chemicals infused in briquets

    • Yes! Thank you David for your comment.

      Since creating this post I’ve discovered that lump charcoal is a lot better for smoking. According to this article, “Good quality lump is a very clean burning fuel. It also burns hotter than briquettes if it’s allowed to get lots of oxygen. The burn rate of the lump can also be controlled, which can help to regulate the cooking temperature when using a grill or smoker.”

  • Nice to see you publish this!

    That is same recipe I use, though I cut the Worcestershire sauce in half and I often substitute a shallot for the red onion. The red onion looks nicer, but I like the flavor the shallot brings.

    A lot of recipes call for different ratios of fish to cream cheese, but personally think 1 to 1 is the way to go.

    You should compare brining and not brining. If the fish has been bled and iced, its flavor is very mild. I just salt salt and pepper and leave them in the fridge for 24 hours uncovered to develop the pellicle (a coating of proteins on the surface which allow smoke to better adhere).

    I also leave the skin on the fillet. It protects the fish during the hot smoking process. Once it’s smoked the skin will peel right off.

    It’s nice you were able to control your water smoker down to 200F. Perfect temp for a low and slow fish smoke.

  • Hi Ryan. Another twist on the smoked bluefish is what we call “Bluefish Bacon”. We use about 2 cups of sweet (Brown Sugar, White Sugar, and Maple Syrup) and only 1/2 cup of Salt. This helps prevent it from becoming too salty. After fileting the fish we cut it into strips (1/3 inch wide) so that it is more like bacon. It doesn’t need to marinate for long, especially if you baste the bluefish while smoking it. It takes about 90-150 minutes on the smoker depending on heat and other conditions. It makes a great bluefish, lettuce and tomato sandwich (BFLT), and it’s great sharing the bacon strips as an appetizer or with breakfast. Give it a try. You will be the envy of your friends and family.

  • Ryan:
    Thanks for posting – look forward to trying it out!
    Did you bleed out the Blue? How big was it?
    Appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences on the water (and kitchen)!
    Tight lines,

  • Try cold smoking too, takes longer and you might need a horizontal set up, just a regular BBQ grill will work. A friend of ours used to use green apple wood chips in his Little Chief electric smoker for bass and bluefish, so hot smoked and used to flake it with just mayo. w or w/out lemon to have on crackers.

    • Awesome idea Scott! Thank you. I will have to look into the cold smoking method. I have a lot to learn about smoking fish, but it’s fun and a nice way to pass the afternoon. Thanks for the comment and for reading MFCC. ?

  • I wondered how your experiments with cooking and smoking bluefish worked out. The recipes look great. Now I just have to get back to the Cape and catch a few —- Tom

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