Time for fishing from the comfort of your sofa
It is that time of the year: when the mere thought of fishing is so far removed as not to matter one iota. This is the time when watching fishing on television comes into its own with the National Geographic Channels series Wicked Tuna starting its new season on Sunday night.
The saga that accompanies the pursuit of big money fish is enthralling enough even without the addition of the news that earlier this month a single bluefin tuna fetched an incredible $1.76 million at auction in Japan. The fish in question weighed just 489 pounds, making a one pound slice worth about $3,600!
Although the species is found here in small numbers with little rhyme nor reason to the timing of their presence, the chances of a really valuable specimen are exceedingly low.
Fat content is a major factor in determining value and fish caught here in the mid-Atlantic probably have not been gorging themselves on bait and are more likely to be using fat reserves to fuel their oceanic crossings. Still, the thrill that the television programme engenders is enough to make you want to get out on the ocean, regardless of weather and go in search of big game well, almost!
For the most part, it will be vicarious angling over the next couple of months with the various sporting channels providing the thrills and action that we can merely mull over in our minds as we await improvements in the weather and something in the way of more summery, or at least springlike, conditions.
Elsewhere, the International Game Fish Association has recently released its list of newly approved world records. While this is generally a lengthy listing and includes fly tackle records and the all-tackle length records for many species, the vast amount of information contained in their regular press releases is of little interest to Bermuda. One bright note in this present release however, is the ratification of Andrew Diass new 20-lb test (10 kg) world line test record for grey snapper. The fish, which weighed in at an even twelve pounds was caught on Argus Bank last June 12th during the Bacardi tournament. Although it did not qualify as an entry for that event it did earn a global distinction nonetheless.
The much followed yellowfin tuna all-tackle record has now been fixed, for the time being at least, at 427 pounds with the huge specimen landed last September off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. While there are those here who would revel in the mere thought of being hooked up to such a fish, none of them are likely to have to worry about it happening here.
Something that locals can and probably should, do something about is the new horse-eye jack all-tackle record of 32 pounds that was set in September last year in the Gulf of Mexico, making it another USA record.
While there are several Bermuda records in the 20 to 30-pound bracket, not one at present exceeds the new recognised mark but without any doubt there are fish swimming around here that could easily eclipse that and set another record for this Island.
Part of the problem probably stems from the nomenclature. The horse-eye jack is not a term that gets used much, if at all here, but the species is actually quite common. Here, it goes by various names, somewhat dependent on where it is caught and by whom. If it is taken by a net hauler in inshore waters, it will probably be called a white jack, longfin jack or just plain jack. If taken offshore, where they are generally larger and darker, they are called black jack, or more often, steelhead jack. When and if the scientists get a hold of it; it will get its proper scientific name, horse-eye jack. There are some full-sized versions of these living in places like the base of Argus Tower and other reef structures where they are usually more than willing to please despite proving disappointing to many anglers who were hoping for an amberjack or bonita. The latter has been known locally to go by horse-eye bonita so the name mess is patently obvious. What is probably less obvious is how simple it should be to set a new world record.
Another angling item making the news but not in the sports pages involves the capture of an 883-pound blue marlin off the coast of North Carolina last summer. This was made by an angler and charter boat taking part in one of the big money billfish tournaments that are held on the US East coast and elsewhere.
The fish was indeed the largest blue marlin weighed in during the event and everything looked like a success story until the organisers intervened and disqualified the fish.
First thoughts run to some illegal rod handling or over-length leader or illicit hook rig that had been found out and reported. But no, it stemmed from a decision on the part of the tournament organisers that related to the fact that one of the crew did not possess a valid North Carolina fishing licence at the time. The fact that he went on line from the boat (pretty sporty boat!) and secured one was deemed to be after the fact because one of the tournament rules stated that every participant had to be properly licensed. Inasmuch as one was not, this was deemed a violation of the tournament rules and the basis for disqualification. This had no great benefit to the organisers as the would-have-been second place fish would then reap the rewards, meaning that there was no financial advantage to the tournament committee.
Bad enough in that the action brought the team into disrepute but worse as the prize money was just shy of one million dollars! This has, of course, led to a court action which is turning into a saga of its own as there are accusations of favouritism and a miscarriage of justice.
The full story can be read on-line by going to the website http://wtop.com/134/3184517/Fish-story-lands-in-court-with-1M-on-line on the Internet.
Where this sad tale has some bearing on Bermuda is that the money tournaments here have similar rules applying to participants and in the event the Blue Halo becomes law, there may well be situations where tournament organisers will have to include limits as to where boats may fish and methods of enforcing those rules. Such scenarios could lead to similar confrontations and, even more likely, confusion with the well-rooted Bermudian belief that the ocean is ours, when and where we want to fish. Sadly, a need for such rules and the interpretation of those rules goes a long way to taking away a lot of the excitement that comes from the pursuit of Tight lines!!!