Like a large, hairy mammal emerging from its hibernation, this column once again comes out to weather the spring and summer seasons. Having been in slumber there will be some catching up to do and a return to the clockwork.
For some just surviving yesterday, Friday the 13th, without any mishaps is an accomplishment; for anglers, getting through the winter and have a realistic view of some piscatorial action to come in the near future is a sign of success.
Not that the period that has intervened has not had its moments. As warned in last year’s final column, fishing during the winter months is highly unpredictable.
Despite a very poor wahoo run with the expected — aye, longed for — run of “frigate mackerel” amounting to not very much at all, a few things did pick up.
There was a brief but very welcome run of school-sized yellowfin tuna. Some commercial boats managed to catch a dozen or so in a single day and, by comparison with most of the rest of the year, this constituted a haul.
Poor weather conditions put paid to most of the fishing effort and the yellowfin had soon departed; presumably for warmer climes, leaving pickings particularly slim. Offshore excursions on the occasional good days by diehard anglers and commercial operators were met with mixed success with a few wahoo constituting a good day.
Some of the high points included some respectable action from bluefin tuna, a species not normally sought after by most local fisherman. While most of this action was confined to boats reporting huge hookups and being pretty well spooled by what was believed to be a large tuna, it was Captain David Soares who came good in February by boating a 471-pounder.
Not surprisingly March came in roaring like the proverbial lion and it enjoyed a really good long howl; finally ceasing its noise and gales during the last few days of the month which allowed a modicum of effort on what turned out to be near glass calm seas.
This paid off reasonably well for some, although the action was incredibly spotty. On one day Mark James’s Angler Management, spent most of a morning working the southwest Edge from Peter Riley’s to Sally Tucker’s Point and finished up with four wahoo and two dolphin (mahi-mahi) — by no means a poor outing. Other boats working offshore settled or the odd blackfin tuna or a couple of fairly small wahoo while still others came home empty-handed. A return to the passage of cold fronts and gales again severely reduced the amount of effort expended as much of the commercial fleet took advantage of the down time to get their boats on and off slips and carrying out maintenance in advance of what is hoped to be a bumper year. Expectations always run high with fishermen, it seems!
In advance of tomorrow’s closure of the seasonally protected areas (the so-called “hind grounds”), a number of boats worked those areas and succeeded in catching a reasonable number of the target fish even though it was simply not as profitable as it had been in past years. Were the fish even earlier this year than last or are they later than usual will remain to be seen but as of this weekend, those areas are off limits and everyone should be guided accordingly.
Quite apart from anglers taking advantage of the increasing number of calmer days with moderate seas have been boaters who have marvelled at the display that the humpback whales are currently putting on pretty much all around the island, but especially off the South Shore and in the vicinity of the Banks.
Several operations actually conduct specific whale-watching trips and these prove popular with locals and visitors alike. Unlike some other locations, this is a very short-lived phenomenon locally as the whales in question are on the move heading north to the rich feeding grounds, where they spend the summer months.
On another note, recently a hammerhead shark garnered some attention, making the headlines. Although its whereabouts were a bit curious, what was more noteworthy was that about 40 years ago, hammerheads were fairly common and indeed the first Bacardi Rum tournament held in Bermuda had just such a fish as a winner.
Although most Bermuda tournaments had excluded sharks, the species had just been recognised by the IGFA and so, for that tournament at least, it was considered a game fish and eligible to win. It will be interesting to see if there is an upsurge in the number of these predators in local waters or if this is just an isolated incident.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the best fishing is still many weeks away.
The whales are a definite harbinger of the warmer months and the more observant may have noticed that some roadside fish sales are now specialising in jacks. Jacks are normally caught by net fishermen when they come inshore during the months with warmer water. This is another sure sign that Mother Nature has things under control and the season is about to kick off.
Best not to tarry too much and miss out on what can be some exciting early-season Tight Lines!