Tight Lines

Offshore about as good as it gets

  • The odd dolphin is on the move (Photograph by Sefora Antela Violante/AP)

A surprising number of rather intrepid anglers braved the monsoons last Sunday to go and work the deep blue briny in search of wahoo and other game species.

Given the conditions, it is hard to imagine where anyone could find even temporary shelter from the seemingly endless deluge and, for many, the thought of having to endure several hours without relief has the makings of a nightmare.

Despite the rather adverse conditions, perhaps equally surprising, a good deal of them were rewarded with success. While many concentrated on using live baits, mostly robins to get the fish to strike, some success was had by simply trolling dead baits and artificial lures.

One thing that is for sure is that the quality of the wahoo leaves very little to be desired. Most every fish betters the 30lb mark, with many weighing in at over 50 and the odd individual pushing three figures. This is really quite remarkable because in most areas where the wahoo is caught reasonably commonly, the average size is in the low 20lb range with 30-pounders being considered large.

While wahoo enjoy a very wide range throughout pretty much all oceans where the water is either warm all year round or seasonably warm; another thing to consider is that many of the world’s preferred fishing grounds are not home to the numbers of wahoo that are actually expected in Bermuda.

Although widespread, they occur in large numbers, or at least with some consistency in a relative few locations. Here is one of a very few places where both commercial fishermen and anglers actually go offshore expecting to catch wahoo; more so during the April through November period but the winter months often see good numbers of wahoo and these come as no surprise.

There are reasons for this, not least of which is isolation and lack of a continental shelf. Species like kingfish hug the Gulf and eastern Atlantic coasts of the United States, where they effectively substitute for wahoo. Naturally, given the extensive range of the latter, some occur from time to time but they are not the expected catch on any given fishing day.

Right now, the offshore is about as happy a situation as it can get for wahoo anglers. Not only are they present in good numbers but there is an inordinate amount of bait in the form of mackerel on the Banks. These range from those in the “frigate” category up to standard school-size and there is the possibility that there are some larger specimens out there as well. Large, as in individual fish weighing up to and over 30lb. Yes, they do grow that big: the current all-tackle world record is an even 36lb, caught in the waters of a canyon off the New Jersey shore. Several local line class records are held by mackerel over 20 pounds and world records have been set here as well.

One thing is for sure and that is hooking into a large mackerel on any suitably matched tackle offers a pretty amazing challenge. Pound for pound, they don’t have many equals as many anglers will attest.

Mixed in with the wahoo are blackfin tuna which seem to be on the move and the odd dolphin. The yellowfin seem to be keeping a very low profile here although apparently good numbers are still being caught by boats fishing out of North Carolina; if their “on-the-web” fishing reports are to be believed.

For those willing to put in the effort, the deeper reef species should also be willing to please. Amberjack and bonitas are generally active at this time of the year and the yellowtail snappers should still be willing to please. Balling down with sand is not really a necessity for such fishing; most important is having a nice tide running off the stern and a good, long chum slick that eventually has the bait sinking to the bottom.

Once the yellowtails start to react, they will continue for a long time allowing anglers to catch quite a few. The amount of ice on board is often the limitation to the number of these fish that can be stored safely. The spoil quickly and even though the weather is a little cooler than it has been, plenty of ice is required.

So with lots of fish out there and providing the weather doesn’t turn totally nasty — easterly winds are predicted — tomorrow should see the Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament finally go off. This is a competition between the recognised clubs that features light tackle and; unlike most tournaments, is based on the aggregate number of points amassed on each line class by each club. Rather than selecting winners based on any individual’s performance, this will be won by the club that makes the most of its Tight Lines!