Early sunrises, long days, more intense heat and rising humidity — it is summer in Bermuda and the reason why most locals have boats. While some prefer the thrill of sailing and others work variations on cruising, camping and picnicking, the real reason is to indulge in the art — or is it a science? — of angling.
The ever-popular Bacardi Rum Angling Tournament is expected to go this weekend after last week’s postponement, which turned out to be a wise move as conditions were not very pleasant, to say the least.
The long-range forecasts call for a Bermuda-Azores high pressure system to dominate over most of the weekend and although the weather is likely to deteriorate late on Sunday, it should be all over but for the shouting.
It will be interesting to see which techniques get the most use in the tournament. With the awards being based on boat length and then restricted to three species categories: wahoo, tuna and other game; some participants may well opt to adopt a “shotgun” approach and spend the day trolling. This makes some sense because although most of the wahoo have been school-sized, there have been a few heftier specimens, one of which could well be a winner.
Some will be tempted to go shallower and to chum up a stock of live robins and then to go live baiting or kite fishing. This definitely has its adherents with the downside being the difficulty often encountered when trying to find a willing concentration of this otherwise common fish.
Good, old-fashioned chumming is the method most likely to be the choice of the majority. While it is mainly suited to catching tuna, both blackfin and yellowfin, it offers almost endless possibilities. Dolphin and barracuda, both eligible species, often crash such slicks and robins frequently make an appearance. Rainbow runners are also likely to come to the party but with a tournament minimum weight of 20 pounds, it will take a really big one to make the grade. The latter can be turned into a live bait which can run out on the surface and become prey to any wahoo or tuna lurking along the drop-off or head down deep, into the realm of trophy amberjack and bonita.
Although not a common occurrence locally, for one reason or another, early June is a time when mako shark put in an appearance. One of the sure signs that there is one about is to have a hooked wahoo suddenly scream offline and then to eventually be wound in for the angler only to find the remains of a half or less wahoo usually pretty well shredded. These fish are not to be toyed with as even skilled professionals have a healthy respect for them. Not only will they attack hooked fish, they are not above crashing a trolled lure, even at speed. They are themselves incredibly quick and so well camouflaged as to be invisible. Fortunately, sharks are not recognised species for the purposes of this tournament.
Something that is enjoying a bit of a resurgence seems to be bottom fishing. More and more anglers are resorting to dropping a line, usually with three or more hooks, down to the bottom in search of conies, hinds and the very occasional monkey rockfish. So called “floating fish” like gwelly, bonita and jacks will also please and while getting something for the kitchen might be the reason, some of these can give a good account of themselves.
That there are billfish on the offshore grounds is a proven fact not merely a wishful thought. Although most local boats will give it a few more weeks before hauling out the heavy gear and working the deep water to the exclusion of all else, the foreign sport fishing boats that make their way to these shores do little but.
Last Saturday Captain James Barnes’s Reel Lax gave the deeper water off Challenger Bank a good raking and managed to go two for two on blue marlin whilst raising another fish. Although this is good bill fishing by any standard, it was a bit curious in that the fish were a bit on the small side, that is, if anything over about 200 pounds can be called “small”.
The point being that most of the blue marlin encountered locally early in the season tend to fish in the 400-pound plus category, fuelling the belief that the females show up first with the corollary that the late season fish, come September, tend to be the smaller males in the 125 to 200-pound range.
Effort will ramp up over the next few weeks as more boats arrive in advance of the three local billfish tournaments and the worldwide Blue Marlin World Cup.
Just as a word of advice, the World Cup has, this year, put in new restrictions on which lines may be used and anyone looking to try their luck in that event would be well advised to check out the list of approved lines in advance.
Whatever game is in mind there should be something out there to satisfy everyone’s desires; even picnicking can be combined with a baited line over the side. No matter what might be the main purpose of the boating exercise, who’s to say that there isn’t any number of ways to somehow include some Tight Lines!