In the spring, when the waters warm off the New Jersey coast, the bluefish begin their feeding orgy, a phenomenon that stirs the hearts, and reels, of anglers. Come summer, the blues cruise voraciously north along the mid-Atlantic shore, past the tip of Long Island and into the boiling riptides of the Race, where the Sound meets the ocean. Artist-Diver Stanley Meltzoff joined their migration, swimming among vast shoals of these oceanic marauders, a cautious observer and—as the paintings on the following pages show—a meticulous one. It was, says Meltzoff, like "taking a bath in an enormous bouillabaisse." It was also, as is obvious, an artistic feast.
In warm autumn waters the spring hatch of baby blues, called snappers, cautiously shares the shelter of a New Jersey jetty with last year's crop (left). Striped bass, spot and even tropical wanderers like jacks, angels and rudderfish are sometimes seen in the same environs, if food is abundant and crevices are handy for escape from the blues' whimsical appetites.
A school of shining spearing (above), driven to the ocean's surface by the marauders, and sand eels (below), trapped in the surf line, are two of the blues' favorite dishes, but bluefish will devour anything that moves. If nothing more succulent is available, they will scrape the bottom of the sea, attacking such well-armored morsels as the sea robin (far left, below).
Millions of baitfish move with the tide through the Race. There the blues cut the tasty tidbits off at the pass, meanwhile under threat themselves of being hooked by an assortment of hardware streaming down from boats above.