Tight Lines

The heat is on for chumming

  • Yellowfin Tuna

Hot enough for you, yet? To be sure, the humidity is getting up there and while, thankfully, there has been some rain, there are more dry days ahead. In the wee hours of Wednesday, the summer solstice will occur and that will be the longest day of the year. Amazingly enough, the days will start to shorten although it will be some time before this actually becomes noticeable.

Unfortunately for some, although it will truly be summer that day, it won’t be the hottest day of the year; that gem is yet to come, probably in August, although July can be pretty brutal as well.

It is on those stock still, oil calm water days when the sun is pounding down on a cockpit that chumming can become a painful task; especially when one can look down a hundred feet or more and see, quite clearly, that there are no fish there. It is fishing but …

At least trolling generates some sort of breeze, even though most of the fish have enough sense to avoid the warm upper layers of water. The use of deep trolls helps here even though the bait is often only a dozen feet or so below the surface.

Happily, it just isn’t that hot yet. Chumming is coming into its own and conditions can actually be quite pleasant while waiting for some fish to show up in the slick. The bulk of these will be yellowfins but what is interesting is that there seem to be two separate groups or size classes present on the offshore banks.

With the most of the action coming from down on Argus, the tuna are either schoolies in the 25 to 35lb range or significantly larger, more like 60-pounders. This suggests that the local fish population is actually derived from two different cohorts.

This is kind of amazing given that the main known spawning ground — believed by some to be the source of all young yellowfins — is in the eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Somehow, starting off as tiny larvae, these fish make their way across the entire Atlantic Ocean, arriving here as what we call school-sized fish. An alternative source, for which there is some evidence, may be the Gulf of Mexico but even then that is a good distance from isolated Bermuda and there is no telling what path the fish from either source might take as they make their way here. Equally, there is no telling if the larger fish have come from Africa, which would presumably have taken longer while the smaller ones have come from down south. The logic being the longer it takes to get here the larger they are going to be. And even that is seriously questionable. What is for sure is that the fish do move around — sometimes they are here in numbers and at others practically nonexistent.

What is known is that the fish tend to stay in groups of similarly-sized fish, thus the theory that there are at least two separate groups out there. Obviously, there could be separate groups of the same size; who knows maybe there are multiple groups but in any case, once the fish arrive in the chum, the anglers will have a pretty good idea of what he or she is up against.

Another advantage to chumming is the promise of action. Apart from the expected Allisons, there should be jacks, blackfin tuna, rainbow runners, mackerel and robins. Some will be more numerous than others but the latter offer opportunities for conversion into something larger and can be especially useful if a wahoo or two start hanging around the boat. Another species that used to be commonplace but which has been uncommon in recent years is the skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito. World records have been set here and they are fine light tackle game fish. The water is certainly warm enough for them to be around now.

On those windier days or when the tide looks to be setting into the wind, trolling can still pay off. Maybe not the way it did a few weeks ago but it should be possible to snag a wahoo or two. Some of the larger yellowfin will crash natural baits fished a long way back and there are usually a few dolphin around to provide variety. The latter will take almost any bait on offer; they are not too fussy! Dragging anything over the deep water is living dangerously unless some billfish action is desired.

With the bulk of Bermuda’s waters given over to the America’s Cup and the myriad boats associated with the events, the calendar is sparse for June. This weekend sees a competition at Blue Waters Anglers while the other clubs take a pause. Although most will find time to be at a premium, at least this is a long weekend that might allow a few enough time to try and grab some Tight Lines!