A time to reflect – and look forward
Another summer gone by, fleetingly, it would seem. As this column comes out weekly, it often comes as a surprise how quickly the angling scene goes from being virtually non-existent to suddenly heating up, then the thrill of the billfish tournaments, followed by the lazy daze of high summer, a brisk finale about October and then a slow descent.
As the remaining minutes of 2016 tick away, the weather will have ensured that fishing is not on anyone’s agenda. Another long weekend and the last of the holiday festivities are at hand, providing enough distractions to any might-be anglers. Certainly, there has been no hectic offshore action to get anyone’s attention and the absence of such will have most going with the social flow.
As 2017 dawns, it is always worth taking advantage of this pause in the calendar to look back on the year. As always, there were positives, negatives and the occasional curiosity. All too quickly these can be consigned to the warehouse of memories with only a select few occasions remaining in anyone’s recollection. For various reasons, these are almost always different, for memories, as are lives, are highly individual.
Things started to grab attention in late April, when the wahoo action showed marked signs of improvement. There were some excellent hauls and the fish were of good quality. This augured well for the summer and many were hopeful of an extended spring run. As it turned out, this was not to be; the run provided a brief flurry of activity that quickly petered out by early May. Around that time there were, uncommonly, fairly reasonable numbers of dolphin around and these provided a welcome distraction to otherwise fairly uneventful trolling.
Inshore, schools of jacks gave the commercial net fishermen some profitable pursuits and reminded weekenders that it was high time to leave the land and go and wet a line.
Unfortunately, the summer left a lot to be desired. Normally a time when the yellowfin tuna are plentiful, they proved to be elusive at best and practically non-existent at worst. Amazingly, it is only a few years ago that the tuna were so abundant that everyone was practically filling their boat with quality fish. This was to the point that many worried that government might intervene and impose some sort of bag limit or other control on the number of fish that could be caught.
And, before anyone opens their mouth in indignation to say that the dearth of the last few years is a result of that huge harvest, let it be known that, in other portions of their not insubstantial range, the species was readily available in good numbers. Quite simply, the fish chose to take another path this year and not to tarry on the banks.
Perhaps linked to the relative lack of fish was the notable absence of bait species for much of the year. During the summer the flying fish were seldom in evidence and this was not because a huge influx of predators had wiped them out. More likely, that the bait (which are largely planktonic and subject to the tides and currents) failed to arrive probably accounts for the lack of fish, rather than the other way around. Pure conjecture, but there are no other obvious explanations.
A much brighter picture was painted by the results of the billfish tournament. July saw a tournament scene much improved over the previous year. For comparison, the 2015 Bermuda Big Game Classic saw a total of 34 billfish caught. This was down on the 52 scored in the previous year’s event. In 2016, the catch rebounded to 78 with 68 blue marlin providing the bulk of the action as was intended.
The August doldrums were as expected with the tiger sharks taking over the banks and providing some anglers with a good pull. Fortunately, the small game provided sufficient distractions for those wanting some light tackle action. The blackfin tuna, presumably, a resident species put in enough in the way of appearances to allow club tournaments and the like to have some eligible fish to weigh.
Great expectations surrounded the onset of September: frigate mackerel were awaited and then disappointed. Some wahoo arrived but not in the numbers hoped for. The Wahoo Tournament was a success with the fish being of extremely high quality if a little less numerous than usual. The 78lb 11oz specimen caught on 16lb test by Kyle Mello set a new Bermuda light tackle record.
The wahoo fishing continued to be sporadic until about mid-October when the arrival of Hurricane Nicole pretty much put an end to the angling season. Boats were hauled, moorings strengthened and best hoped for which, happily, was the result for most. Thereafter the commercial operations shifted their focus on to lobsters and while there was a flurry of tuna activity, this too was short-lived and the season all but declared over.
Now there is next season to look forward to, so here’s wishing everyone a happy new year and hopefully it will be one well punctuated with Tight Lines!
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