Tight Lines

Winter is coming as summer draws to a close

Time is running out unless you want to spend the next four or five months watching the weather and hoping for the odd, very odd, weekend that will not only be fishable, but will have the fish in a co-operative mood.

Winter fishing is very different to summer angling and the latter is rapidly drawing to a conclusion.

There is no doubt that it is late for the offshore summer seasonal species, but late does not quite equate to never.

Just this last week, a live baiter was very surprised to see a blue marlin skyrocketing out of the water attached to a line intended for a wahoo. Not what was wanted, but action nonetheless.

The bottom line is pretty much all the blue-water predators eat the same things and when something is on offer it is just a matter of whatever hungry fish shows up first.

Hence the fact that wahoo, tuna and even dolphin are taken on live robins or juvenile tunas.

Most of the few fishermen who are using live baits are now concentrating on ocean robins.

Usually readily available they fit the live-bait category almost perfectly now that the long-awaited “frigate” mackerel have graduated to being just plain old “mackerel”.

Now is the time of year and although there do not seem to be a lot around, juvenile blackfin tuna make the ultimate live bait.

Trolling a small daisy chain in the same way as used to catch frigates will variously be attacked by mackerel and juvenile tuna.

The usual species is blackfin, suggesting that the species breeds in the local area. The implication from such is that the predators see such small tuna as part of the local bait assemblage.

So the predators are already geared up to feeding on such, making them ideal baits. Properly rigged, they can last for hours even though this is the last thing the fisherman wants them to do. The name of the game is a quick trade up from a tiny tuna to a comparatively massive wahoo or tuna.

Now, with the weather shifting into the winter pattern, the best action will probably come from traditional trolling techniques.

Wahoo numbers will have slackened off, but there will still be small aggregations of fish and larger solitary specimens scattered all along the Edge and over the Banks.

This is what makes trolling productive; it is the covering of the ground that makes the difference.

With the boat presenting baits and constantly moving, the odds of encountering a hungry predator are increased, and the theory is that every so often one of those encounters will translate into a strike.

Although strikes will not be as numerous as they are when the fish are in large schools, many will involve some of the larger fish that seem to move in very small groups or by themselves.

Making these strikes count can really pay off, with fish ranging on up into the 50-pounds and better bracket.

Although yellowfin sometimes persist through the winter, the fact of the matter is that they are a tropical species and tarrying in the subtropics does not make a whole lot of sense for them.

The blackfin tuna appear to be a resident population so they are pretty much available year-round.

Chumming along Bermuda’s Edge is one of the best places for snaring some blackfin action which although exciting is somewhat less than rewarding when the object of the exercise is to build up a stash of nice white fish for those weeks just ahead when turkey and ham become the designated dinner for many and seemingly for every meal.

Chumming along the Edge or over the deeper reef areas not only allows some action from tuna and mackerel, but the sinking chum is likely to get the attention of yellowtail snapper which can be so co-operative as to seem suicidal.

Once a good chum line is established, yellowtails will continue to bite, even feeding after darkness falls.

This allows large numbers to be caught in a relatively short period of time.

If the whole fish is not needed, then whipping the sides off, placing them on ice and tossing the rack over to act as more chum can be a process that allows the build-up of a nice stash of fillet in a very short time.

The bottom species so often ignored by sports fishermen; barber, coney and the occasional red hind, can also be filleted on the spot.

Icing down the fillets can make for really high-quality fish that can be stored for months without any appreciable deterioration.

Just make sure that the fillets do not end up soaking in water.

Let the ice melt over them and have some way that the water can drain away from the meat.

Back on land, the fillets can be bagged up and frozen, preferably flat, for long-term storage.

This is a rewarding and economically pleasing outcome to a day spent searching for Tight Lines!!!