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Alternatives recommended for a gloomy weekend ahead

Photograph by Blaire Simmons

Not a weekend to be planning on going fishing, that’s for sure. It is not all over yet, but that time is getting close. The weather is switching into winter mode and this means that it is rapidly turning into the time of year when fishing becomes iffy at best and downright diabolical at worst.

This past week’s early winter gale should be a fine reminder that these strong winds can continue for days at a time and there is often not enough of a calming period to allow the seas to settle down to the point where a trip offshore is realistic. This is bad enough for the pros, who need to get offshore to ply their trade, but makes the amateurs’ chances of success somewhere in the slim-to-none category.

But don’t believe that the fish are all gone. While the traditional sought-after species are certainly less commonly encountered, some things that might qualify as sea monsters can appear whenever they want. Just this past week, a well-known commercial fisherman was crossing the deep when his very sturdy 130lb test rig went off. Usually capable of stopping most large game fish, this was not such a case.

Whatever it was, it just went and went and eventually emptied —or, in angling parlance, “dumped” — the reel. It simply took all the line, probably about 1,000 yards of it. In other words, more than a half-mile of line, and that is a long way.

Conjecture as to the culprit ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous — a huge blue marlin or an entanglement with an antenna on a nuclear submarine — with the most logical settling on a hefty bluefin tuna. Historically, bluefin were common visitors to these waters, often during the winter months and, more recently, have been enough of an occurrence that some fishermen actually go looking for them. Unlike billfish, which very often resort to aerial acrobatics in an effort to throw a hook, tuna run far, run fast and often run deep. Bluefin grow to well over 1,500 pounds and the thought of nearly a ton of fish flesh bursting away like an express train in very deep waters quite easily accounts for the stripping of even a heavy-tackle rig.

Most of the sport tuna fishing that is seen on television and in the movies actually takes place in areas where the water is not particularly deep. Deep enough but nothing like the abyss that surrounds this island.

This weather will abate and there will be more days when a trip to the Banks is not out of the question, but the fishing generally takes a turn that will discourage most sportsmen to look to other diversions.

Trolling for wahoo will continue to get results, as it will all through the winter. Numbers will drop off markedly as evidenced by recent catches by experienced boats of just single fish may be punctuated with a blackfin or small dolphin. The dolphin will soon vacate the cooler water and while yellowfin tuna may remain throughout the winter, conditions seldom favour chumming and they can be loathe to take a troll.

This pretty much negates concerted trolling effort and old hands intent on results will spend only a limited time dragging the edge of the Bank before settling in to do some bottom drifting using good, old-fashioned bait in the form of cut squid or fish. Those who have the proper connections might come up with an octopus or “scuttle” and that makes a superb bottom bait, as it is incredibly tough and will outlast several fish’s efforts to tear it off a hook.

Another trick worth noting is the use of circle hooks. These really do make a difference when bottom fishing, especially in deeper water where the distance from the hook to the hand or rod means that there is a lapse between the bite and the tug. Circle hooks almost always get their prey and a hind or coney will stay latched on.

Something else worth remembering: the fish are not so clever as to require that the hook be hidden from sight. They are interested in devouring the bait and if that means getting a hook into their mouths, so be it. It is only when the hook hits home and some force starts pulling them in another direction that they realise that something is wrong. So, it isn’t necessary to go to a whole lot of trouble to disguise a hook with so much bait that it is near invisible. If the bait is fresh and smells good to a fish, it will bite.

A final word on this, use multiple hooks — even as many as five work. Just make sure that they are spaced out so that they do not entangle each other. That is totally counterproductive and means that one or more of the hooks will not be used as effectively as they might.

Don’t worry if the rig then has its top hook ten feet or so above the sinker. Ambers, bonitas and monkey rockfish all patrol over the top of the reef and such rigging moves a bait right into their zone of interest. And that may just get some very attractive Tight Lines!!!

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Published October 30, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated October 30, 2021 at 7:52 am)

Alternatives recommended for a gloomy weekend ahead

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