Tiger shark fishing not the done thing
Here it is: August, that month that brings those lazy, sometimes hazy and often crazy days of summer. Actually, this is a pretty apt description of the recent offshore situation. Angling effort is down, in part owing to the heat but also because for many this is family time and, despite the pandemic, the time of the year when many locals go away to wherever.
Characteristic of this exceedingly warm month are the big tiger sharks that appear on the Banks. Of little angling value to most local anglers and commercial fishermen alike, these often very large and very recognisable sharks will take most any chunk bait and will give just about anyone a good hard pull on pretty much any class of tackle.
Although it is one of the shark species for which line-class records are held by the International Game Fishing Association, shark fishing has always been considered déclassé by local anglers. In fact, most local tournaments notably refuse to recognise any sharks. Still, when the action is slow, hooking such a sea monster can occupy a client for a good while and provide the visiting angler with a bit of excitement since the neighbours on the Eastern Seaboard seem greatly enamoured of shark fishing. Once released, those big tigers are likely to come back and go through the exercise again in coming days.
Chumming is the preferred method of fishing at this time of the year. Small game should be abundant: rainbow runners, mackerel, jacks, robins and increasing numbers of barracuda. Blackfin tuna can be usually counted on to put in an appearance and so will yellowfin tuna, although the latter tend avoid the midday heat and are more prone to please early in the day or on into the evening hours.
Trolling the drop-off will produce a few wahoo and the odd yellowfin. Many remain hopeful that the large tuna will show up in numbers but boats working the deep continue to experience some reasonably good marlin action. Sea Hound and Game Changer each had a few shots this week and both boats were successful in releasing blue marlin. Bottom line is that there simply aren’t that many boats out looking. Marlin are of little value to commercial fishermen and the charter fleet that does put in billfishing effort is limited by the number of clients willing to hire them.
There is also something to be said for keeping an eye out for some flotsam. Even the smallest bit of floating stuff — a plank or hank of rope — might well play host to an abundance of fish. Any of the pelagic species can be associated with such; wahoo and dolphin, aka mahi mahi, tend to be the usual characters here but tuna and marlin might not stray too far away, either. Earlier this week, Captain Alan Card’s Challenger had such an encounter and it resulted in a nice haul of small dolphin and a few tunas, all of which enhanced the fish box.
While everyone understands the value of fishing to a local economy — whether as a foodstuff or for recreational returns to government bodies or charter operators — a quick look at the money in what claims to be the world’s largest and richest billfish tournament could raise and eyebrow or two. At the three-quarter stage this week, the 48th annual such event is led by an 82.5lb white marlin catch. A nice white, no doubt, but by no means a giant of the species. What is incredible, though, is, at the moment, it stands to win a whopping $4.9 million!
In the blue marlin class, the present leader, a 559.5lb blue will earn only $800,000 while the largest tuna of the event, at 137lb, looks to make $1.12 million. This year sees 444 boats entered and, because of a complex system of entry levels, the total prize money is estimated at $9.2 million. Uncle Sam must be rubbing his hands in glee, knowing that he is going to get a cut of every pot. It should, however, also give thought to the overall value, which includes boat wharfage, accommodations and provisions for anglers and crew, fuel and myriad additional supplies, all of which make some contribution to the community.
Although the IGFA’s establishment of all-tackle length world records have elicited little interest locally, a recent change to that governing body’s rules now allows for separate fly-fishing length records. This means that the length records are no longer a combination of line test and fly catches. The limited number of species eligible for these classes of records probably does little to inspire locals but bonefish, grey snapper, bonita, amberjack, little tunny (mackerel) and blackfin tuna are among those eligible species that are sometimes sought on fly gear here in Bermuda. Maybe not for everyone, but yet another option for Tight Lines!!!