So long, ye diehards, until the 2019 season is upon us
And herewith endeth the season; for most, at least, with the tropical season finally winding down and the water temperature dropping below the threshold at which such systems can strengthen.
Although hurricanes and tropical storms will no longer be of concern, there will be the winter gales. For some, the gales are a worse proposition than a named storm. Some winter gales can blow at least as hard as a tropical storm and often continue for days on end, straining moorings and other rigs, and frequently causing damage, not to mention power outages.
Although the Fishing Information Bureau component of the tourism department or board, as it was called in those days, refused to recognise any fishing after the end of November and before the end of April, there has always been some effort exerted over the so-called “shoulder seasons” and winter “off-season”.
It was other than mainstream fishing that turned up some interesting catches, which influenced later developments. Bluefin tuna were seen and hooked; very seldom caught simply because the gear was not up to the job of stopping an express train that was headed for depths previously unfathomed by any anglers. Sailfish were caught on occasion, something of an oddity as they were thought to be limited to continental shelves. Albacore tuna, easily recognisable by their almost aircraft-like wings for pectoral fins were also caught with some regularity. Later, the Taiwanese commercial fleet would learn to exploit seemingly vast school of albacore in the local area.
Probably most important, it was learnt that the wahoo were present all through the autumn and winter, and that some years the yellowfin would stay put. Blackfin tuna proved to be a resident species and, although less active during the cooler months, could also be caught throughout the year. Sporadic billfish activity resulted in blue marlin, white marlin and spearfish occasionally taking trolls, nixing the thought that they were here exclusively during the high-summer months.
It is as a result of this pioneering effort that anglers today continue to head offshore when the weather allows, and certainly there have been some nice hauls in months that were thought to be best left alone. February has often proven to be a great month for wahoo, and hefty yellowfin can be had by chumming well past December and into the new year.
Even now, many have retired the fishing gear and pulled the boat out of the water for a winter spent on shore. But there are those few who are the real diehard anglers who continue to take advantage of any good weather that comes their way. For most, this is restricted to weekends and public holidays, and even the latter will be frowned upon as the nature of the season that will shortly be upon us is not conducive to spending a day offshore.
Last weekend, one such expedition stuck strictly to regulation trolling; that is, using rigged garfish and lures, and managed a haul of five wahoo, ranging up to about 40 pounds, and five reasonable yellowfin tuna on what was tantamount to a half-day excursion. A decent result by any measure and proof that a good day can be had even at this late juncture.
Similarly, a commercial boat on a trip to Argus concentrated on the use of live robins and was likewise rewarded with a bunch of wahoo. What was critical, though, was that the latter haul consisted almost exclusively of small fish. How small? Like less than ten pounds, including one that was released when it was realised that it probably did not weigh three pounds.
On a positive note, these fish are probably the “young of the year”, products of mating activity somewhere earlier this year and now making the transition from being nekton — actively swimming but pretty much at the mercy of the currents — to becoming a recognised fish.
Trolling will probably continue to pay off for the next six weeks or so, but many will have far more productive days by concentrating on working the bottom species. Having a surface line out while bottom fishing on the Banks will get occasional results, but a reasonably steady supply of hinds and coneys is preferable to chumming and waiting for a bite that may never come. Ambers, bonitas and gwelly will also take bottom rigs and offer a bit of variety.
It is wise to use circle hooks and tough baits such as octopus and squid. That way, there is likely to be something on the hook that will help to justify the monotonous and tiring work of winding up 200 feet of line on a repetitive basis.
As this is the end of the accepted angling season, so does this column’s year come to an end. All things being equal, it will reappear in the spring, well rested and rejuvenated. In the meantime, it is probably a logical time to wish everyone the compliments of the various seasons so soon upon us.
For those who do try to indulge during the coming months, here’s hoping you enjoy some Tight Lines!!!