Tight Lines

Out of the frying pan, into the fire for one unlucky yellowfin

With most of the year now a matter of history, the penultimate month of 2018 will be angling’s last stand before the winter sets in and other avocations take priority. If the weather holds, there may be opportunities for forays off on to the briny and, if it doesn’t, then it will be a matter of putting the boat into mothballs a few weeks earlier than expected.

On the bright side, it may still be hurricane season but with the water temperatures in this part of the Atlantic now a bit less than that needed to sustain or grow tropical systems, a little relaxation may be in order.

Not out of the woods just yet but the light is at the end of the tunnel. Mind you, the winter gale season is upon us and some of those result in more power outages and general hindrances to life than provided by tropical storm encounters.

Boats working the offshore, particularly the Banks, are meeting with some rather welcome success. Wahoo are taking both trolled offerings and live baits.

It is almost exclusively live robins that are being used in the absence of any juvenile mackerel or blackfin tuna. Yellowfin tuna are also taking live baits, although good, old-fashioned chumming is also getting results.

The normally accepted theory relating to game fish in Bermuda, and one that a lot of the popular literature that abounded in the 1950s and 1960s, was that it was really only the summer months that welcomed good fishing here.

Effectively, the season ran from sometime in April and petered out as November rolled in. In retrospect, this was probably more to do with the type of craft that were available and a marketing ploy that looked to enhance the summer season and to shift the focus from water-based sports to things such as tennis and golf during the shoulder season and winter months.

Realistically, things were a lot better than that, even though it was not obvious. Take the belief that the more tropical species prefer the warmer water, then allow a little factoring in of the climate change and global-warming theories; there is some evidence that sea temperatures are warmer now than they used to be — that is highly complex because of El Niño and other factors — and fishermen putting in more effort, and the result was that many of these species could be caught well into the so-called “off-season”.

It is for this reason that many anglers continue to take advantage of any fishable weather on into the months that were previously ignored. This has turned up a few home truths.

For instance, blue marlin, widely believed to be exclusively found here from June through August, were eventually caught during every calendar month, opening up possibilities, even if a directed fishery wasn’t really feasible.

Bluefin tuna, thought to be a winter straggler, were caught during June and at other times of the year. Wahoo, although known to be a year-round species, were found to have a great burst of activity in the unlikely month of February.

All in all, there were a lot more possibilities that conventional wisdom allowed for.

Recent activities have borne this out. One commercial boat returning from a trip to Argus that paid off with a couple of wahoo, hooked something in the deep that, while not identified, was obviously a large fish that made a mockery of the reel it was attached to until everything came unstuck. Candidates were thought to be blue marlin, a giant wahoo or maybe even a bluefin. Unthought of but another possibility might have been a bigeye tuna, seldom seen here but not unknown, either.

A commercial boat with a mixed bag of wahoo and school-sized yellowfin tuna, on its way home, hooked and caught two nice-sized dolphin, another species thought to be a summer visitor.

Captain James Robinson’s Wound Up continued her winning ways with a haul at the weekend that included a fine wahoo just shy of 60 pounds and a nice variety of other fish, including some yellowfin tunas. One of these, a 30-pounder, turned out to be living proof that there are still some billfish around because, once boated, it was obvious that it had been run completely through by a marlin bill. The tuna escaped one fate as marlin food only to wind up in the fish box on a boat.

The message, though, is clear: the marlin are still out there and tuna is high on the list of their preferred dietary items. Given that there are enough tuna around here to make life interesting, there are probably more than just a few billfish as well.

Despite the game fish to be had, many fishermen will be thinking about putting some fillets in the freezer and this means working the bottom on the Banks.

At this juncture, Challenger Bank would seem to be the better bet for hinds, coneys and the occasional amber or bonita.

Ideal conditions could make chumming over the deeper reef productive if the yellowtail snapper decide to please but even here, the bottom offers the best chance of a decent return.

Funny, how at some times it is the fish that are most important, not the Tight lines!!!