Not much of a winter wonderland
New year, new resolutions, new plans — but pretty much the same old fishing. Unfortunate as it may seem, there have been no major developments in the offshore scene, but that might not be the worst thing as there is a bit of action to be had.
The holiday break, punctuated with some heavy weather, meant that the fish got a bit of a break and it was not until after the first of the year that fishermen started to get a handle on where the fish were most likely to please.
Many anglers and most landlubbers fail to take consideration of the amount of intelligence that this can take. It is one thing to be out there day after day, essentially following the fish as they move with the currents or follow the bait. It is quite another to miss out on a few days and to have to start off from scratch by locating the fish and trying to establish whatever pattern they may be in. Guests chartering a sport fishing boat are often a bit surprised that the skipper gets results almost immediately while their amateur acquaintances will often tell them that they spend hours just to catch a couple of fish. The difference lies in the continuity of it all.
With a return to normalcy and taking into account that it is winter, there have been some recent mixed results from the fleet. To put things in perspective, the absolute best haul has been something like ten wahoo and the best of the worst have finished up with one or two fish. Mid-range catches of three to five have been mentioned a few times with the observation that most of the fish are of good size going a long way to ameliorate the lack of quantity. There is the likelihood that one or more have suffered blanks, but no one is going to go around advertising such things.
The tactic that seems to be paying off at the moment is normal old-fashioned trolling. While some are still having some success with live robins, certainly on the banks there seems to be some concentration of bait fish. They can be seen dappling the water over a large area but it is unclear as to what they are. Many have categorised such schools as “never bites”, a term for a species of jack that really won’t take a hook. Whether or not this is the present case is not known. Similar phenomena have turned out to be large schools of juvenile barbers or other species. Some years ago, it was the juvenile barbers that had schools of large yellowfin tuna busting water all around the banks as they gorged themselves on the small fish. Such feeding turned into a frenzy and these tuna would occasionally take an offering trolled in the vicinity of the mayhem, making for some pretty spectacular tuna catches.
There has been some effort expended chumming and while the winter is not noted for producing a whole lot, there have been some tuna caught. These have mostly been blackfin although there have been the odd yellowfin tuna. One apparently weighed in at around 60 pounds, but turned out to be a solo effort by a commercial fisherman. This is sort of strange as they are known to be a schooling species.
There are also some oddities about. For whatever reason, the winter seems to bring these out. Whether people go fishing in out of the ordinary places or try different things to attract fish really isn’t known, but this is the time of year when things like African pompano get caught. Last weekend, a boat trolling over the deeper reefs on its way home caught a large, hitherto unidentified jack. Winter bottom fishermen catch other jack species quite regularly and often encounter gwelly and the lesser or “bastard” amberjack on the banks.
Inshore areas undergo a rather remarkable shift in fauna. Where there were snappers, bream become the dominant species with pinfish running a close second. While the former makes for a firm white fillet, despite its reputation, the latter is way more trouble than it is worth — virtually guaranteeing a diner with a run in with fish bones.
Some juvenile bonefish can be caught off the South Shore beaches, but one has to pretty well blind cast for these as their size makes them virtually invisible. Palometa can be caught year round but these tend to be small and the very idea of wading in what really feels like cold water can be very off-putting indeed.
Speaking of which, the weekend forecast is not exactly encouraging either; with southwesterly breezes making the offshore very uncomfortable indeed; maybe not chilly but still not very nice. Part of the problem with angling in the winter is that neither the fish nor the weather are too co-operative when it comes to an angler getting Tight Lines!
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