In Bermuda, we’re close to the bonefish
Whether the fish know it or not, the angling season is just over a week away.
Traditionally heralded as commencing on May 1st, there is no longer the extravaganza that was the Opening Day Tournament. Later known as the Louis Mowbray Tournament, this was a bit of a misnomer because it was held on the first Sunday of May, even though it was recognised that the season started on the 1st of the month, regardless of which day of the week it fell on. In the event that it was postponed, there was no alternate, because — obviously — it was no longer the “opening” day.
At the moment, the offshore report is highly variable, ranging from one or two wahoo with a maximum of nine being taken by one boat in one day.
The average is far closer to the former and there have been a few “blanks” that proved incredibly disappointing, considering that it is the time of the year when the fish are supposed to be on the move.
There seems to have been some decline in quality as well, although that may be an artifact of the seeming randomness with which fish have been caught. Any concentration of fish would normally lead to similarly-sized fish being caught, since the assumption would be that there was a school in the vicinity. That is maybe a bit of a generalisation, but one with considerable evidence to support it.
Often taking up residence on the banks and elsewhere, schools of yellowfin tuna should be moving into the area. Thus far, a few have been caught while trolling and it is only a matter of time before someone puts in some proper chumming effort. That will quickly establish whether or not the fish are here.
Down in the Bahamas, less than 1,000 miles away, the billfish tournaments are getting underway. Rounding out this month are a couple of white marlin tournaments and then the blue marlin competitions start. It is fair to think that if the billfish are there, then it won’t be long before they show fairly regularly on the local fishing grounds. Although white marlin have not been prevalent here during the early months there are indications that they do run with schools of wahoo; so if the one occurs, then there should be some action from the smaller billfish. Make no mistake, although they do not attain anything like the size of the blues, the white marlin is a spectacular light tackle fish and can often give a good account of itself on lines as high as 50lb test.
Local anglers seem to concentrate on the billfish, wahoo and tuna species but one thing that often gets forgotten is that not all the great gamefish are to be found offshore. The key here is the use of the word “great”. It may relate to size with large fish such as wahoo, tuna, marlin and shark all qualifying, in most people’s books. But there is also the definition of “great” that means distinguished or celebrated.
And it is that latter designation that covers the inshore species that are true gamefish. These include the grey snapper, the palometa and the bonefish.
In fact, the bonefish has helped power Bermuda into an eminent position insofar as exotic fishing destinations are concerned. Not in terms of numbers; there are plenty of places where they are too numerous to count — even at any one time. There are places where there are literally hundreds roiling over a flat as the tide comes in. But what set Bermuda apart was the sheer quality of the bonefish. For many years, world records were set here and although all are now consigned to history, there are still some real trophy bonefish to be had even though precious few actual fish for them. To be sure, catching a bonefish is very much the essence of the art of angling rather than simply fishing.
In the old days, the books — and there were quite a few on bonefish — said that in Bermuda the bonefish stayed offshore until about mid-April when they would start to invade the shallows. This was presumably due to the belief that the fish came in as the water warmed.
In fact, it is now known that the bonefish are pretty much wherever they want to be all year long and they can be caught all year round. It is more likely that with spring and then summertime conditions being more conducive to luring anglers out onto the beaches or in small craft along the shore promoted the pursuit of the species.
So, even if a boat is unavailable or the conditions a bit too sloppy, there is always the option of going after this from either the land or by boat. They are out there, averaging better than six pounds and there may well be the elusive, record-breaking 20-pounder lurking somewhere; and, if hooked on the appropriate tackle, there is no doubt that such a fish will indeed provide some Tight Lines!
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