So, what has the moon got to do with it? Well, it seems to have a lot to do with a lot of things. The Romans believed that the moon caused various forms of insanity; hence the term lunatic, which means moonstruck.
Farmers have often relied on the phases of the moon to decide when to plant and harvest crops. Churches have based the occurrence of Easter on the first Sunday (tomorrow) after the first full moon (this year, April 11) after the vernal equinox (this year, March 20). Hunters use the bright and dark phases of the moon to their advantage believing that some animals follow patterns related to the phases of the moon and fishermen have had all sorts of theories relating to fish behaviour.
Marlin fishermen in many places believe that billfish activity is at peak just prior to and immediately after the full moon; hence the scheduling of many tournaments. Others believe that the full moon and the brighter phases allow predatory fish to feed at night so that the fishing in the day time is slower than when the moon is in its darker phases.
Many older fishermen linked the spawning aggregations for many reef species to certain full moons. Knowing which was which allowed fishermen to take advantage of the groupers and other bottom species with huge success, sort of akin to “shooting fish in a barrel”. Although this provided a temporary boost that was of vital economic and social value to people, as the practice and the extent of that practice grew, the overall effects were negative, sometimes to the point of essentially eliminating the species at those locations. In many locations worldwide, such overfishing has occurred with dire consequences for the populations that relied on local fish production for sustenance.
To try and avoid just such a scenario, the authorities in Bermuda enacted protected areas in the hope that the fish would be allowed to reproduce then scatter over the reef platform where they could be caught. The idea was to protect fish at their most vulnerable times.
As has been the case just about everywhere in the world that has had or continues to have “grouper grounds” the fishermen have been able to land bumper hauls. This situation came into sharp relief during recent years when the hinds, in particular, arrived at the spawning sites somewhat earlier than expected. Although these locations are contained within the seasonally protected areas, those restrictions did not come into effect until May 1. The reason for this was unclear, it could have been water temperature or some other trigger but it was quickly realised by fishermen that there was an opportunity to be taken advantage of. This indeed proved to be the case with large quantities of choice fish being caught.
Fisheries authorities responded to this development by amending the start date of the protection order to April 15, so with the full moon occurring earlier this week, quite a number of fishermen and anglers tried to work the so-called “hind grounds” in the hope of a bonanza. There were also limits as to the number of hinds that could be taken in any given day.
As it turned out, although there were red hinds caught this week, the numbers were nothing like the previous year as the fish were not there in great numbers. This effort did allow for some anglers to store up some prime white-meat fish in advance of the sport-fishing season, which tends to concentrate on the blue-water species like wahoo and tuna. The start of the sport-fishing season is also on the horizon; it generally being accepted as the first of May, more attention is now being focused on the offshore with many awaiting a spring run of wahoo. This has not commenced, although the wahoo that are being caught have been some nice specimens.
Runs usually mean numbers with many of the fish being of similar size, suggesting that they have been schooling from their earliest days. The fish that are being caught at present are often better than 50lb, making them somewhat older that the regular “schoolie”. The usual tactics are being employed and while the wahoo fishing has been “iffy” most boats have managed to catch enough.
Also caught using the same tactics are yellowfin tuna. Again, the numbers have not been staggering nor has the quality. Most have been school fish in the 20 to 25lb range; fairly game on reasonable tackle but not exactly those preferred by the market.
Such fish are fine for the amateurs who want some fresh tuna for the barbecue but not much challenge for the angler who wants to come to grips with some really Tight Lines!